Here is a MIDI demo of movement one of Gilgamesh Suite, a commission from the Locrian Chamber Players. The piece is scored for flute, harp, prepared piano, and string quartet and is based on my 2011 theatre score for Gilgamesh Variations. It is written to commemorate the John Cage centenary.
At least on paper, one of the more fascinating collaborations of the 2012 installation of American Mavericks brought vocalists Jessye Norman, Meredith Monk, and Joan La Barbara together with Michael Tilson Thomas and members of the San Francisco Symphony for a performance of John Cage’s Song Books. Complete with lighting, sets, stage business, camera work, and sound design, this was an ambitious undertaking. Unfortunately, it raised as many questions about performing Cage as it answered.
In the performance of the work last night at Carnegie Hall, Jessye Norman sang like Jessye Norman. Meredith Monk did Meredith Monk. MTT made a smoothie and tore up newspapers. But Joan La Barbara: now she performed a John Cage piece. Here she is doing the same work in 2011, with Ne(x)tworks at Greenwich Music House.
Hats off to Monk and Norman for reaching outside their comfort zones. But they were placed in a difficult situation. My wife, a director and playwright, described it thus: “It felt like all the things ripped off from Cage by bad experimental theater were donated back for one night only. And it seemed like the design team were having much more fun than the audience.”
It’s great that San Francisco is giving the American Mavericks another airing. And I’m really looking forward to hearing what is, for me, a dream program at Carnegie Hall tonight: Ruggles, Feldman, and Ives orchestrated by Brant!
But their Cage presentation left me with questions about how those interested in interpreting his music are to proceed. The challenge: creating a performance practice for Cage that doesn’t become its own museum piece of cliches. The scores deserve it. There’s plenty of music in them and, indeed lots of ways to present Cage entertainingly, but without so much shtick.
Treuting recently released sheet music for Amid the Noise, which can be purchased at Good Child Music.
This year, a great number of artists and ensembles are celebrating John Cage’s centenary – even Jessye Norman and Meredith Monk are getting in on the act as part of Michael Tilson Thomas’s revival of the American Mavericks series with the San Francisco Symphony. While it will be fascinating to see that some of these “out of the box” Cage performances will be happening, it’s also nice to hear that groups like So Percussion, who have a long track record performing Cage’s music, are celebrating the centenary in style. On 3/26, they are taking part in the American Mavericks series at Carnegie Hall (details here).
The concert will be the culmination of a tour by the group featuring Cage’s Third Construction as the centerpiece of Cage-themed program entitled We Are All Going in Different Directions.
There’s an equally imaginative recorded component So’s feting of the maestro of indeterminacy. On 3/27, Cantaloupe will release So Percussion’s “John Cage Bootleg Series.” The release includes a blank LP (the better with which to perform 4’33″!), a CD sampler, and a card with download codes that will enable listeners to obtain all of the group’s Cage bootlegs online. And the audio artifact lover in me delights in the handsome homemade feel of its handsome packaging. Top to bottom, Cage’s aesthetic is well manifested in So Percussion’s activities this Spring!
We Are All Going in Different Directions: So Percussion Celebrates Cage
Feb 28: Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee (Cage’s Third Construction)
March 2: The Royal Conservatory, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
March 6 + 7: The McCullough Theatre, University of Texas, Austin
March 10: Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin (Cage’s Third Construction)
March 26: Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall, NYC
John Cage: Credo in US (1942)
Sō Percussion / Matmos: Needles (w/ Matmos) (2010)
John Cage: Imaginary Landscape #1 (1939)
John Cage: Quartet for Percussion, from She is Asleep (1943)
Cenk Ergün: Use (w/ Cenk Ergün & Beth Meyers) (2009)
Dan Deacon: “Bottles” from Ghostbuster Cook: The Origin of the Riddler (2011)
John Cage: 18’12”, a simultaneous performance of Cage works
-Inlets (Improvisation II) (1977)
-0’00″ (4’33″ No.2) (1962)
-Duet for Cymbal (1960)
-45’ for a speaker (1954)
Jason Trueting: 24 x 24 (w/ special guests) (2011)
John Cage: Third Construction (1941)
On Saturday, the 2012 Avant Music Festival presents a program celebrating the John Cage Centennial. Our friends Loadbang join pianist Vicky Chow and other avant musicians in a performance of Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra. It’s a piece that avoids the “O” in concerto by allowing the musicians considerable freedom in the performance of their parts. Thus, the soloist has to operate in a constantly shifting environment. It’s recently been done brilliantly by SEM, and in a hammy fashion by the New Juilliard Ensemble. Given the parties involved, one should expect nothing less than a thoughtful and exciting interpretation of the work.
For more information about the Avant Festival, check out Chris McGovern’s interview with Randy Gibson.
Loadbang will also be giving another Cage concert at Greenwich Music House in March (details below).
One of their members, Andy Kozar, is fundraising through next Tuesday for a CD project featuring his compositions (and several appearances by Loadbang) via Kickstarter.
Wild Project – February 11th, 2012 8PM
loadbang performs John Cage’s Living Room Music, plus Concert for Piano and Orchestra with Vicky Chow as part of the Avant Music Festival
195 East 3rd Street, Manhattan
$15/$10 at door, $12/$8 presale online
Greenwich House – March 8th, 2012 8PM
John Cage: A Portrait in 5 Parts: loadbang celebrates Cage’s centennial
46 Barrow Street, Manhattan
$15/$10 students, tickets at door