100 YEARS OF JOHN CAGE
FearNoMusic AND YU PRESENT 100 YEARS OF JOHN CAGE
The premier Cage centenary event in the Pacific Northwest to be held FEBRUARY 17 AT YU
as Portland joins worldwide celebrations of the iconic avant-garde composer throughout 2012
Ten seminal Cage compositions to be performed by renowned local musicians, including
Lecture on Nothing presented by Oregon Symphony Music Director Carlos Kalmar
FearNoMusic and YU are pleased to announce 100 Years of John Cage, an event featuring ten live performances of some of Cage’s most important compositions, presented throughout YU’s historic Yale Union building by FearNoMusic musicians and special guest artists. The event, a highlight of contemporary music ensemble FearNoMusic’s twentieth anniversary season and YU’s second season of programs as a contemporary art center in Portland, celebrates the centennial birth of John Cage, a seminal twentieth century composer.
John Cage was a composer, artist, and theorist whose groundbreaking work established him as a leading figure of the American avant-garde. His creations included the use of silence, non-musical noise, appropriated sound, and extended technique—the non-standard use of musical instruments. A lifelong collaborator with choreographers, artists, musicians, and other composers such as Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, and Christian Wolff, Cage is widely regarded as a creator of revolutionary compositions that broke with tradition and radically expanded the field of modern and contemporary music.
“Like Beethoven did in his time, Cage took radical chances in his music and art and departed from the accepted course of twentieth century music. He was the father of experimental music and his influence continues to be enormously important,” said Paloma Griffin, FearNoMusic’s artistic director.
100 Years of John Cage will be the premier Cage centenary event in the Pacific Northwest and joins those scheduled throughout the year by music and art centers in over a dozen countries around the world. Other west coast programs planned for 2012 include those at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and REDCAT.
The compositions featured in 100 Years of John Cage span almost a half-century. They range from early non-musical sound works to later experiments in indeterminacy and improvisation. The program will include the following highlights. A full list of works and performers is attached.
• Lecture on Nothing, the iconoclastic 1949 piece in which Cage famously declared “I have nothing to say, and I am saying it” will be read by one of FearNoMusic’s guest artists for the evening, Oregon Symphony Music Director Carlos Kalmar
• Postcard from Heaven, a composition of improvisatory ragas for up to twenty harpists first presented in honor of Cage’s 70th birthday, will be performed by over a dozen local harpists, including Jenny Lindner, Principle Harp for the Portland Opera Orchestra and Oregon Ballet Theater, and Jennifer Ironside, Principle Harp for the Oregon Symphony
• Litany for the Whale, a call-and-response work reminiscent of Gregorian chant will be performed by renown baritone Kevin Walsh and Robert Ainsely, chorus master and conductor of the Portland Opera
• 4’33”, the iconic – some might say notorious – completely silent work from 1952 in which a pianist sat at a piano but played nothing for four and a half minutes will be performed by the entire FearNoMusic ensemble
FearNoMusic AND YU COLLABORATION
100 Years of John Cage is a unique collaboration between YU, a contemporary art center, and FearNoMusic, a contemporary music ensemble. Performances will be arranged in areas of the Yale Union building to create unique interplay between the physical space and the performance. In one example of performance placement, Litany for the Whale, a call-and-response composition to be performed by baritone Kevin Walsh and chorus master and conductor of the Portland Opera Robert Ainsely, will be presented in YU’s large garage space, chosen because of its open, cavernous, reverberant qualities. Compositions will be presented simultaneously throughout the building from 8 to 11pm, allowing visitors to move freely from one space to another.
JOHN CAGE AND PORTLAND
It is especially fitting that FearNoMusic and YU would stage a significant centennial tribute to Cage in part because the composer had Portland ties dating back to his marriage in the 1930s to Xenia Kashevaroff, a Reed College art student. In 1940, Cage and his wife performed several of his compositions at Reed, and in 1949 Cage and choreographer Merce Cunningham presented a double-billed performance of music and dance at Reed’s Botsford Auditorium. Cage returned to Portland in 1985 and presented Muoyce, a two-hour piece in which the composer recited a dismantled and reassembled text of Finnegan’s Wake, in conjunction with an exhibition of his etchings at the Portland Center for the Visual Arts (PCVA). The audio recording of that performance will be featured as a sound installation at YU.
Advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended.
This is a standing event, though some limited seating will be available.
WHAT: FearNoMusic and YU Present 100 Years of John Cage
WHERE: YU – located at 800 SE 10th Avenue, between Belmont and Morrison
WHEN: Friday, February 17, 2012, doors open at 7pm, performances from 8pm to 11pm
TICKETS: $25 general admission, $12 students, and $15 seniors. Tickets are available at www.yaleunion.org, in person at all Ticketmaster outlets, and the Aladdin Theater Box Office at 3017 SE Milwaukie Ave., Portland. Tickets may be available at YU the night of the performance, but advance purchase is strongly recommended.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
YU: (503) 236-7996, firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://www.yaleunion.org
FearNoMusic: (503) 957-0055, email@example.com, or visit http://www.fearnomusic.org.
THANK YOU 100 Years of John Cage is made possible through the generous support of RACC; YU’s Founding Members and supporters; FearNoMusic’s donors and supporters; Classic Pianos; and media sponsor Willlamette Week.
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100 YEARS OF JOHN CAGE
PROGRAM NOTES FOR ELEVEN FEATURED COMPOSITIONS
4’33”, 1952 [4.5 min.]
To be performed by the entire FearNoMusic ensemble: Inés Voglar, violin; Paloma Griffin, violin; Joël Belgique, viola; Nancy Ives, cello; Jeff Payne, piano; Joel Bluestone, percussion
Perhaps Cage’s most notorious composition, 4’33” premiered on August 29, 1952 at the Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock, New York. Although it shared the bill with pieces by other experimental composers Christian Wolff, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, and Pierre Boulez, it was for this performance that an audience member shouted, “Good people of Woodstock, let’s run these people out of town!” Pianist David Tudor sat at a piano and played nothing for four and half minutes, thus creating a container for the multitude of environmental sounds that are habitually ignored. And in a now-conventional trope of performance art, the audience became the performers, as the mutterings of dismay and disbelief filled the empty vessel Cage had created with silence. Cage credited Eastern thought and Robert Rauschenberg’s monochromatic “White Paintings” of 1951 as sources of inspiration behind his composition of 4’33”.
Lecture on Nothing, c. 1949 [40 min.]
To be performed by Oregon Symphony Music Director Carlos Kalmar
“I am here, and there is nothing to say.” So begins John Cage’s iconoclastic Lecture on Nothing, first delivered circa 1949 at the Artists’ Club in New York, a venue associated with the painter Robert Motherwell. In 1959, the lecture was printed in the Italian review of avant-garde music Incontri Musicali (Musical Encounters). As a printed text, the lecture is arranged in the same rhythmic structure that Cage employed in his musical compositions at the time. This structural division comprised four vertical columns, with the words and punctuation mathematically spaced to resemble textual compositions of concrete poetry. Spoken aloud, Cage writes that the words are unaffected and read “with the rubato which one uses in everyday speech,” although that did not prevent one audience member from standing up and screaming, “John, I dearly love you, but I can’t bear another minute,” then walking out. As if that weren’t enough, Cage had previously prepared six answers to employ during the Q&A period following the lecture, giving them as replies regardless of what questions were asked. “This was a reflection of my engagement with Zen,” he wrote.
From Silence: Lectures and Writing, by John Cage (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961)
Litany for the Whale, 1980 [25 min.]
To be performed by baritone Kevin Walsh and Robert Ainsely, chorus master and conductor of the Portland Opera
Litany for the Whale is a vocal composition written for two performers who sing in a call and response routine. One sings the letters W-H-A-L-E, each in a designated pitch, and the second singer performs a response, a sequence continued in thirty-two repetitions.
Fourteen, 1990 [20 min.]
To be performed by FearNoMusic and the Portland State University New Music Ensemble
In this composition, which premiered two years before Cage’s death on May 12, 1990, an ensemble comprised of wind and string instruments performs notes composed using aleatoric principles based on chance operations. The score also requires a piano’s strings to be bowed with fishing line.
Credo in Us, 1942 [12 min.]
To be performed by Jeff Payne, piano; Joel Bluestone, percussion; Brandon Nelson, percussion and record player
Cage premiered Credo in Us on August 1, 1942 at Bennington College, Vermont accompanying a dance piece by Merce Cunningham and Jean Erdman. Composed for four performers, the piece is Cage’s first to incorporate the music of other composers—Cage suggested Dvorak, Beethoven, Sibelius, or Shostakovich—to be played by one performer on a radio or phonograph. Another musician plays a prepared piano, while two percussionists play muted gongs, tin cans, electric buzzers, and tom-toms.
Inlets, 1977 [length varies]
To be performed by FearNoMusic
Inlets was a collaboration with Merce Cunningham and Morris Graves, esteemed Northwest painter who was acquainted with Cage when the latter attended the Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle in the 1930s. The piece premiered Sept. 10, 1977 at the University of Washington in Seattle, accompanying a dance choreographed by Cunningham for six dancers. Inspired by the climate and landscape of the Pacific Northwest, Inlets consists of performers creating sound by filling conch shells with water and producing various gurgles as air bubbles emerge from the shell cavities.
Postcard from Heaven, 1982 [20 min.]
To be performed by over a dozen local harpists, including Jenny Lindner, Principle Harp for the Portland Opera Orchestra and Oregon Ballet Theater; and Jennifer Ironside, Priciple Harp for the Oregon Symphony
Premiered at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in September 1982, Postcard from Heaven was performed in honor of Cage’s 70th birthday. The piece is written for up to twenty harpists playing improvisatory ragas, whose plinking dissonance creates a cacophony of sound that convenes twenty minutes later into a unified ending.
Apartment House 1776, 1976 [15 min.]
To be performed by FearNoMusic and the Portland State University New Music Ensemble
On the occasion of the American bicentennial, Cage wrote Apartment House 1776, which premiered Oct. 27, 1976 at the 50th Festival of the International Society for Contemporary Music in Boston. Cage wrote about the process of composing the piece, “Through chance operations I found 64 pieces, either anthems, hymns, tunes, ballads, two-steps or quick-steps for the military, marches, and imitations of Moravian music. Through that I had to face what I hadn’t faced previously in my work: the question of harmony, and I found a way finally of writing harmony that interested me, which was, actually, to subtract from the original pieces, so that the music consisted of silence-sound-silence. So that each sound that occurs in those harmonies is preceded and followed by a silence. Then the sound comes from its own center, rather than from a theory.”
From a 1977 interview with Art Lange, quoted in Conversing with Cage, by Richard Kostelanz (New York: Routledge, 1987/2003)
33 1/3, 1969 [length varies]
To be performed by attendees
33 1/3 premiered Nov. 21, 1969 at the University of California Davis as part of “Mewantemooseicday,” a daylong series of performances, film screenings, and readings. As performers in a participatory sound installation, the audience members entered a room with turntables, nearly 300 phonograph records, no instructions, and no chairs. Cage commented on 33 1/3 as follows: “In 1969, at the University of California, Davis, I arranged an event called ‘33-1/3’ which consisted of an auditorium with eight sound systems … the ‘audience’ was the performers. Without them nothing was heard.”
From John Cage Writer: Selected Texts, edited by Richard Kostelanz (New York: Cooper Square Press, 2000.
Music for Marcel Duchamp, 1947 [5 min.]
To be performed by Jeff Payne
Composed for a segment of experimental filmmaker Hans Richter’s 1947 film Dreams that Money Can Buy, Cage’s piece explores silence juxtaposed against sounds from a prepared piano muted with weather-stripping. Duchamp designed the film segment, a dream sequence titled “Discs,” with his rotorelief images painted on cardboard circles and viewed spinning on a record turntable.
Muoyce, 1984 [2 hrs.]
Audio installation featuring documentation of 1985 Cage performance in Portland
Cage’s neologism “Muoyce” is a synthesis of “music” and “Joyce”; the piece consists of two hours of Cage reciting the dismantled and reassembled text of Finnegan’s Wake. Premiering in New York in 1984, the composition is the result of Cage’s chance operations formula applied to Joyce’s masterpiece to undermine the meaning of the words and render it “demilitarized”—or meaningless—language. The version presented at YU is from an original cassette recording of Cage’s performance of Muoyce at the Portland Center for the Visual Arts in 1985.