As I've said every time I've written about a Cage piece on this list, you hear his structure. More than anything, you hear how his structure is not to what you are accustomed to listening and feeling.
Naturally, as a percussionist I am drawn to this work. I've actually never played it but, I've been around performances, workshops, and rehearsals of this piece since undergrad. I remember sitting in the percussion room at the University of Arizona doing work on my laptop while Scott, Alex, Jon, and Darren rehearsed the work. I remember all of the debate over instrument choices. I remember Darren breaking the ass's jawbone in performance and his crazy one-handed clave speed. The way Alex looked when towards the end when he was playing the drums with maracas. Scott's seizure-like head bobbing as he played the two cowbell solo.
I've been under the spell of this piece for a long time. I think that my first percussion ensemble piece ...of the Earth, owes a great deal to Cage. It took me five years to be able to write another percussion ensemble that, I think, has gotten out from under the immense shadow that this work creates. As I said two posts ago, I was working on looking to other art forms for conceptual inspiration. I think that sometimes, listening to music can be bad for a composer. You drown out what is coming from inside of you.
Plus he uses a conch shell. Come on. How cool is that?