Spending an evening listening to So Percussion’s Cage 100 Bootleg Series is somewhat akin to sitting up all night in college, drinking red table wine, smoking Parliaments and discussing what it all means: Very few concrete answers result, but you still walk away feeling buzzed and charged.
So it goes with John Cage’s stimulating steamroller of a percussion oeuvre, to which the four fearless members of So Percussion take like Dadaist ducks to water. More importantly, when you hear them play Cage, you hear their innate beliefs in the composer’s tendency to favor chance and circumstance rather than specific controlling notations in music (we can thank the fact that Cage, a onetime wannabe Methodist minister, became heavily into the Zen movement in the late ‘40s for that breakthrough).
In fact, So has embraced Cage’s belief in divine randomness to the extent that its celebration of Cage’s centennial has manifested in a 300-copy limited edition run Bootleg Series, of which no two editions will be exactly the same. But indeed, as Cage himself once wrote, “it is not their differences which are to be our concern, but rather their uniqueness.”
The physical product comes with a blank LP in a nod to Cage’s definitive 4’33”, a CD with 64 minutes of So’s live recordings of Cage selected at random by machine, and a card with a download code to access full concerts. As Michael Gordon’s Timber became the most talked-about album last year for its wooden packaging, so too may this be 2012’s contender for most inventive, and most evocative, bundling of a new album.
As an alternative, So has also released an iTunes mix of the same bootleg series, with Beth Meyers, Cenk Ergun and Martin Schmidt taking turns with the core four. In addition to works like Cage’s Credo in Us and She is Asleep: Quartet, So also offers works inspired by Cage, such as member Jason Treuting’s galvanizing 24x24, layering Cage’s sound collages with the composer’s texts read with reverent fury.