Essential New Music: Tania Chen With Thurston Moore, David Toop, And Jon Leidecker’s “John Cage: Electronic Music For Piano”

The title of Electronic Music For Piano isn’t the only paradoxical thing about it. The score, which updates an earlier set of piano pieces, specifies materials (piano, feedback) and gives instructions (“Consideration of imperfections in the silence in which the music is played”) but provides little guarantee of what you’re going to hear. Tania Chen, a veteran improviser and interpreter of composers like John Cage and Morton Feldman, understood that Cage was really prescribing a process and the tools to realize it.

This realization of the score comprises three duets (with guitarist Thurston Moore, multi-instrumentalist David Toop and electronic musician Jon Leidecker) which are sequenced and mixed together in a partially chance-determined way. It lasts more than an hour, but its discontinuous structure provokes the listener to deal with its ever-changing constellation of clanks, hums and notes second by second.

—Bill Meyer