Four2 (1990)

John Cage

mixed choir

In the final years of his life, Cage produced a series of what James Pritchett has called “Number Pieces,” where the title of the work is simply the number of performers (or in some cases groups of performers) required to perform it (such as One, for solo piano, Two for flute and piano, 101 for orchestra, and so on). The majority of the Number Pieces are instrumental works, but Four 2 (the superscript “2” indicates that this is the second “Four” composition), composed in 1990 for four-part chorus, is among the exceptions. Four 2, like so many of Cage’s works, is aleatoric. However, the use of “time brackets,” a compositional technique all of the Number Pieces share, results in a more controlled indeterminacy. Each of the four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) of Four 2 is a series of such brackets, and the score specifies a period of elapsed clock time in which the music in each must begin and end (although the exact placement of the material is free within these limitations). Four 2 does not have a traditional text: it uses instead the letters of the American state Oregon.

Performances