On my last session I heard the highlight of the set so far: Cage’s Inlets from 1977. It’s the quintessential Cage piece, and the work I always imagined Cage wrote without ever having heard it – long, slow, placid, all sounds made from the elements.
Some great notes on the work here from James Pritchett:
Cage's Inlets (1977) is for three performers, each with four conch shells: small,
medium, large, and very large. Water is poured into the shells so that they will
gurgle softly when the players tip and turn them about. Each begins with any
shell, then, after a short time, changes to another one. A somewhat longer
time is spent playing the second shell before changing to the third one, which
is then played for an even longer time. The rest of the performance — the
longest time period of all — is spent playing the final shell. The watery sounds
of the shells are at the heart of the piece. Their unpredictable outbursts and
soft burbles are mesmerizing and relaxing; the gradual slowing down of the
performance mirrors the setting of our own minds. About midway through the
piece the shells fall silent and the sound of fire — of burning pine cones —
emerges from loudspeakers. The water gurgles pick up again, and, a little later,
the sound of a blown conch shell trumpet is heard. That is the whole piece:
water, fire, air. The materials are elemental (only earth is missing . . . I
remember, though, that when Cage performed it he used a box of sand to catch
the dribbles of water). They do not need Cage's assistance to become powerful.
What they need is for him to leave them alone. Each of the elements is
presented so plainly that its identity shines brightly: the splashing of the
water, the crackling of the fire, the wailing of the conch trumpet.
And here it is (as an excerpt) performed in 2008 by Inagaki Takashi, Takemura Nobukazu, Nishijima Atsushi and Miyajima Saikou:
The following Weatherings by David Toop ain't bad either. But more on that another time...