Tag Archives: John Cage

A John Cage resource

John Cage 1977

Launched by the New World Symphony in 2015, Making the right choices: A John Cage celebration is a free online resource dedicated to Cage’s music.

In celebration of the composer’s 100th birthday, Michael Tilson Thomas and the NWS presented a week-long festival of Cage’s music in February 2013. That festival was the starting point for the videos presented on the site.

Some of the videos primarily capture the live event. Others take the performances much further, adding layers of visual interpretation that provide deeper insight into the spirit of his works.

Above, Cage at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in 1977; below, one of his orchestral works (the NWS videos are not available for embedding).

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Cage’s microtonal rāgas

cage ragas tabla notation

John Cage’s 18 microtonal rāgas are found in Solo for voice 58 from Song books (1970).

To perform them, the dhrupad and experimental music specialist Amelia Cuni decided to apply experimental procedures to dhrupad vocalism and to elaborate her Indian music background in a new music context. She also wanted to explore an influential contemporary composer’s take on rāgas and step back from her personal involvement with the tradition and observe it from another perspective.

In collaboration with the Berliner Festspiele and several other contemporary music venues, Cuni’s interpretation of Solo for voice 58 was premiered in Berlin in 2006 and has been performed since then at several European and U.S. festivals.

This according to Cuni’s “Chance generated ragas in Solo for voice 58: A dhrupad singer performs John Cage” (Journal of the Indian Musicological Society  XLI [2011–12] pp. 127–54).

Above, the tabla notation for the performance; below, a studio recording of Cuni’s realization. More about the work and Cuni’s version is here; a full live performance can be viewed here (the performance starts at 10:00).

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John Cage, visual artist

Cage painting

Best known as an experimental composer and performer, Cage (1912–92) was also a visual artist who created an extensive body of prints, drawings, and watercolors during the last 20 years of his life.

In all of his work, regardless of medium, Cage consistently dismissed conventional aesthetics by limiting or eliminating the artist’s choice in the creative process. In composing his watercolors, he relied on his signature method of chance operations, guided by a system of random numbers derived from the Yijing.

The sight of silence: John Cage’s complete watercolors by Ray Kass (Charlottesville : University Press of Virginia, 2011) reproduces all of the 125 signed watercolors that Cage created during four week-long sessions at the Mountain Lake Workshop, Virginia, between 1983 and 1990.

The included critical essay and accompanying workshop diaries relate the methods at play in Cage’s visual art to those of his musical compositions and theater pieces. The accompanying DVD offers a live view of Cage at work, featuring a public reading with audience discussion, as well as an interview with him about his watercolor paintings.

Below, Cage’s collaboration with the visual artist Marcel Duchamp for Hans Richter’s Dreams that money can buy.

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John Cage unbound

John Cage unbound: A living archive is an online multimedia project about the American composer and avant-garde music pioneer.

Hosted by the New York Public Library, the project invites musicians and others to submit videos of their own interpretations of Cage’s work for addition to the online archive. Visitors to the site can view submitted videos as well as a portion of the library’s collection of Cage’s original notes and manuscripts.

Today is Cage’s 100th birthday! Below, his classic 1960 appearance on I’ve got a secret.

BONUS: Cage’s own recipe for dogsup.

Related article: Source: Music of the avant-garde

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