John Cage Festival wants YOU to get involved in the composer’s centenary celebrations.
If you have nothing to say and want to say it very publicly, here’s your chance.
Join Ensemble Offspring and New York experimental music gurus Bang On A Can for an extraordinary celebration of the life, music (depending on which way you look at it) and philosophy of John Cage, marking the centenary of his birth.
New music collectives and devotees will take over the Opera House on Sunday November 3 for Musicircus, a “happening” first presented by Cage in 1967, in which dozens of performers simultaneously play different compositions on whatever instruments they can get their hands on. If that sounds chaotic, there’s a kind of method to the madness: each performer’s actions are determined by the flip of a coin, the roll of the dice or a randomly selected page of the I Ching. Audience members can sit in awe or point and laugh, for free.
And here’s your chance to get in on the action. Sydney Opera House is calling for performers and members of the general public to register their interest in taking part… Even Limelight‘s Online Editor will be there with a trick or two up her sleeve!
It’s all part of the weekend-long Cage Festival, which includes a free lecture on the American iconoclast’s pioneering 4’33”, given by musicologist and composer Lyle Chan. He delves deep into the work’s origins and challenges our assumptions about music and silence:
“Even though it is one of modern music’s most (in)famous pieces, there are some crucial things about 4’33” that are unknown even to many of its defenders. For instance, did you know it’s in three movements, each a defined duration of silence? So if the performer does the normal thing for a multi-movement work of taking a brief break between movements, a complete performance lasts for longer than four minutes and thirty-three seconds. You could even say it’s a little unnatural for it to last exactly 4’33”, since Cage wanted it performed exactly as one would perform any other piece of music.
“It began as a playful idea to sell Muzak a piece of four-and-a-half minutes of silence to use in hotels and restaurants. But 4’33” took Cage four and a half years to write it. Or, more accurately, after he conceived the idea of a ‘silent piece’, it took him that amount of time to equip himself with the rationale and justification for creating something he knew would be ridiculed if he weren’t articulate with his defence.
“Yet what was the trigger that caused Cage to finally have it performed in August 1952? I postulate that it was his his artistic and romantic attraction to David Tudor, the pianist to whom he entrusted the premiere.”
Find out more about 4’33” in Lyle Chan’s Lecture On Nothing, 1.30pm on November 3. Musicircus begins at 4.30pm. See full program of concerts and free events here.