We’ve updated our Terms of Use to reflect our new entity name and address. You can review the changes here.
We’ve updated our Terms of Use. You can review the changes here.

Zeitgeist + John Cage: Music for [4]

by Neuma Records

  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      $7 USD  or more




Spirits change with the times but, in the case of Zeitgeist new music ensemble, some elements have stayed constant over the last 45 years: their quartet instrumentation (always keyboard, reeds, two percussion) and their commitment to exploring what’s just around the musical corners. Having commissioned over 400 works (from icons to unknowns), St. Paul-based Zeitgeist’s broad repertoire for its idiosyncratic combo chronicles American musical ideas in many stripes and shades, and is as relevant today as ever.

So it’s high time to revisit a concert they gave with John Cage in Croatia in 1985. This was the occasion of the premiere of Music For [the title completed by the number of players in the group, in this case, 4]. Zeitgeist (with different personnel from its current line-up) had commissioned the work with three other groups — the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the New York New Music Ensemble, and the Cincinnati Percussion Group – and this was its international premiere at the illustrious Zagreb Biennale.

There is no full score, just precisely notated, but loosely synched, parts. This kind of coincidental polyphony parallels the way Cage was working with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. It banked on serendipity as much as it saved on group rehearsal time.

During that April evening, Cage also, in his own inimitable way, performed two of his new text works, Mushroom et Variationes and Muoyce (involving some of his favorite topics, mushroom hunting and Finnegans Wake). In the spirit of authenticity, these have been randomly recombined with the instrumental music for the present thirty-minute recording. The result is an incantatory, haunting, wistful, linguistic-tonal-melodic mix; mysteriously both of its time and out of it.

John Cage: Music for [4] (1984)

Zeitgeist: Jay Johnson and Joseph Holmquist, percussion
Robert Samarotto, clarinet and saxophone
Gregory Theisen, piano


John Cage reading from

“MUSHROOM et Variationes” from The Guests Go Into Supper, and

“MUOYCE” from Writing for the Fifth Time Through Finnegans Wake) from X

Recorded live, Zagreb Biennale, Croatia, Small Hall, April 21, 1985

Music for
Parts for voice and instruments without score (no fixed relation), title to be completed by adding to “Music for” — the number of players performing.

Written for the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Cincinnati Percussion Group, and Zeitgeist

From the score instructions:

“Each part is a sequence of “pieces” and “interludes.”

“Each “piece” is written on two systems. It begins and ends at any time within the time brackets given. It is made up of one or the other or of both of two kinds of music: a) a single held tone, p, preceded and followed by silence, repeated any number of times, and b), a number of tones in proportional notation (space = time), not to be repeated, characterized by a variety of pitches, dynamics, timbres, and durations within a limited range…

“Each player should prepare his part by himself and learn to play it with his own chronometer. There should be no joint rehearsal until all the parts have been carefully prepared. They are then to be played as though from different points in space. The players may sit anywhere within the auditorium with respect to the audience and to each other.”


released April 29, 2022

Thanks to
Heather Barringer
David Dunn
Warren Burt
John Driscoll
Amy Beal
Joseph Finkel

Simultaneous audio mix, Philip Blackburn, 2022


all rights reserved



Neuma Records Saint Paul, Minnesota

Ready for some audacious listening?


A label for experimental classics, today's musings, and tomorrow's possibilities, since 1988.

contact / help

Contact Neuma Records

Streaming and
Download help

Shipping and returns

Redeem code

Report this album or account

If you like Neuma Records, you may also like: