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.
Below, one of his orchestral works (the NWS videos are not available for embedding).
In 2007, as he neared the completion of his recordings of the full cycle of Mahler’s symphonies with the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas discussed what makes these performances unusual.
“My perspective has always been to encourage sections of the orchestra—as well as soloists with the orchestra—to feel a great deal of freedom of inflection in the music, with a great awareness of the source of the music’s inspiration.”
“[That source] might be cabaret music or military music or Jewish music or folk music from different parts of the world. Or religious music, maybe, or something very beautiful and burnished or something quite rangy and grotesque.”
“Artists in an orchestra can sometimes feel, in their relationship to the general situation of the orchestra or even to some conductor who is there, that they must show a certain amount of restraint….So it has been part of a larger process—a process of their having the confidence that I was, indeed, asking them to do something that was ‘outside the lines’—which involves the artists taking the lead in creating the particular color or the particular direction or the particular sound of the music.”
Quoted from “Outside the lines” by David Templeton (Strings XXII/3:152 [October 2007] pp. 52–59).
Today is Thomas’s 70th birthday! Below, he leads the SFS with Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the Urlicht movement from Mahler’s second symphony.
Sponsored by American Public Media and The Harry Partch Foundation, the free Internet resource Harry Partch’s instruments includes interviews with Partch, a complete recorded performance of his The bewitched, links to essays by and about Partch, and—perhaps most engagingly—a virtual instrumentarium that allows visitors to “play” each of the 27 instruments that he designed and built via their computer’s mouse or keyboard.
The website was produced as part of the American Mavericks radio and Internet series, which features the music and stories of visionary American composers. The series is produced in association with the San Francisco Symphony and its Music Director, Michael Tilson Thomas.
Below, Partch demonstrates his instruments, ca. 1958 (in two parts).