On this very page back in 2007, one of my ‘click picks’ told you about a great historic recording available to hear on the web: one of John Cage’s and Lou Harrison’s earliest all-percussion concerts, presented at the Cornish School in Seattle, May 19th, 1939. As I wrote in my earlier post:

The performers heard include Cage, his then-wife Xenia, and the dancer Doris Dennison. (and quite possibly Lou Harrison himself. The photo here shows Lou, John, and Xenia behind, Doris and Margaret Jansen in front).

The pieces on these recordings represent the core of the West-Coast experimentalist group (I know, I know, Harry Partch; but he was off on his own very different journey): Lou Harrison’s Counterdance in Spring, Henry Cowell’s Pulse, two movements from Cage’s own Trio, Johanna M. Beyer’s Tactless and Endless, William Russell’s Three Cuban Studies, and again Harrison with his Fifth Simfony. You just can’t get much closer to sitting in on the roots of this exciting period.

Well, turns out there’s another way to get close to this event: to honor the 70th anniversary of these concerts, Cornish (College now, no longer just a ‘school’) is having a festival in which much of this same music and more will once again inhabit the same space. Titled “Drums Along the Pacific” (the same name the intrepid 1939 group’s first tour used), The schedule for the March 26-29 shindig follows:

The Music of Henry Cowell , March 26, 8:00 pm
The Music of Lou Harrison, March 27, 8:00 pm
Presentations – Free Event!, March 28, 1:00 pm
John Cage Marathon: Part I, March 28, 4:00 pm
John Cage Marathon: Part II, March 28, 8:00 pm
Presentations – Free Event!, March 29, 1:00 pm
Festival Finale: Gamelan Pacifica, March 29, 4:00 pm

Performers include the Pacific Rims Percussion Quartet, pianist Steven Drury, tenor John Duykers, the Seattle Chamber Players, and Gamelan Pacifica. It’s $15 per concert, but $40 will get you a pass to the whole thing. That link up there will take you straight to Cornish and the rest of the info, like programs for each concert, directions, contact and such. Oh, to be back in Seattle right now!…

3 thoughts on “Time Machine”
  1. Google’s not lying — too badly — Dan. It might take closer to 20 or 30 depending on traffic, but it’s a relatively easy place to find. Parking’s another matter, of course! 😉 Snag any spot you might find on the streets, or just cave in and pay one of the lots near Broadway (the main drag just 1.5 blocks east of Cornish). To keep up on concerts check the Weekly and The Stranger for listings, but also drop by the Washington Composers Forum website for concert news on their handy little calendar:


  2. Excellent news! We just made a move cross-country — after about 10 years in NYC/Queens. Looking forward ot the local concerts. I’m a big Lou Harrison fan and have never heard gamelan music live

    Living in Kirkland (15 minutes to this concert claims Google!) — will have to explore Seattle before and after concert

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