The John Cage Festival, that took place between Turin and Ivrea from May 5 to May 20 1984 (arranged and curated by the Cabaret
Voltaire/Progetto Toreat association together with the Provincial and Regional Cultural administrations), has been a little bit
overshadowed by the previous and more famous visits of Cage in Italy (from his stay in Milan at the end of the 50's that peaked
with his participation at the quiz show Lascia
o raddoppia, to the Empty Words
concert at Teatro Lirico, Milan, 1977 and finally the Il
treno di John Cage happening in Bologna, 1978) and his death in 1992. On the contrary, this festival deserves to be
throughly analyzed, since it was the longest Italian celebration of the composer with him attending.
Caption: John Cage in Turin
However, Cage was not only a spectator, since he was actively present in the festival both as a speaker and as a performer. For the first time in Italy he read Muoyce and Mushroom Book. The festival featured also the world premiere of the first sixteen Freeman Etudes (Books I and II), played by Hungarian violinist János Négyesy, and the first Musicircus with children, which involved more than 800 pupils from elementary schools.
Moreover, the festival focused on Cage's piano pieces, thanks to pianist Giancarlo Cardini, and on his works for percussion, performed by the Cincinnati Percussion Group. Apart from all these concerts with Cagean music, the encounters between Cage and the students of the School of Music (Conservatorio) and his conference upon avantgarde must be remembered. Not to mention Roberto Masotti's photographs CAGE exhibition of portraits of the composer.
Besides Masotti's pictures, some footage has also survived: Marco di Castri's documentary H.C.E. - John Cage a Torino, which encompasses the whole festival by means of a succession of excerpts from all concerts, and the long tv special by Luciano Martinengo about the Musicircus with children (of which you can see an excerpt below), that he curated for Rai (more details in the Video section). Here is the complete program anyway:
Saturday, May 5, Teatro Alfieri, Turin, 9pm: Muoyce [John Cage: voice]
Monday, May 7, Aula Magna della facoltà di Magistero, Turin, 10.30am: meeting with John Cage on The American avantgarde from Black Mountain College on
Tuesday, May 8, Teatro Giacosa, Ivrea, 9pm and Thursday, May 17, 9pm, Auditorium Rai, Turin: Music for Prepared Piano: Sonatas and Interludes, Winter Music, Solo for Piano [Giancarlo Cardini: piano]
Wednesday, May 9, Teatro Alfieri (not at Teatro degli Infernotti), Turin: Mushroom Book [John Cage: voice, Gigliola Nocera: introduction]
Thursday, May 10, 4pm, al Conservatorio, Turin, meeting between Cage and the students of the composition course
Friday, May 11, 9pm, Teatro Giacosa, Ivrea; Sunday, May 13, 9pm, Conservatorio, Turin, Freeman Etudes [János Négyesy: violin]
Tuesday, May 15, Discoteca Big, Turin, concert for percussions (Amores, Imaginary Landscape n°2, Credo in Us, Branches) [Cincinnati Percussion Group: Allen Otte, James Culley and William Youhass, percussions]
Saturday, May 19, Palazzetto Le Cupole, Turin, 10.30am: Musicircus with children
Sunday, May 20, Centro Congressi La Serra, Ivrea, 9pm: Mushrooms et variationes [John Cage: voice; Gigliola Nocera: introduction]
Caption: John Cage at the Musicircus with Children, Turin
Finally, thanks to the precious online archives of newspapers La Stampa and l'Unità, you can read below an extensive collection of articles around the Festival, where Cage once again managed to shock the Italian audience. Everybody recalls the pandemonium during his Empty Words concert in Milan (1977). So was the reaction of a bunch of spectators during the Muoyce performance: whistles, boos and all sorts of protests, while Cage exited the theater with a smile on his face, content, as if nothing had happened.
Collection of articles on the John Cage Festival in Turin/Ivrea
(subtitle: It's the way to accept the whole world of sound, which has a meaning by itself – Now I prefer Mozart to Bach – These are the composer's words, who yesterday with Muoyce opened the festival in Turin dedicated to him)
(from La Stampa, Sunday, May 6, 1984, n°107, pag. 19, by P. Gal.)
John Cage is delighted. The rain that welcomed him at his arrival in Turin seems really promising in terms of mushrooms and the musician-mycologist, who will read on Wednesday some excerpts from his Mushroom Book at the Infernotti Theater, could not have hoped for more. There is only one little regret in his visit here in Piemonte: that of not having yet been able to organize the sonorization (by means of microphones and speakers placed on plants and trees) of a wood near Ivrea, which he believes is the most appropriate location in the world. The project however, is just postponed. For now Cage has exhibited as a fine speaker. The national premiere of Muoyce (Music-Joyce), yesterday at Teatro Alfieri, featured him in this role.
How does this piece work? Muoyce is a blend of sentences, words, syllables and letters extracted by James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. I read it for an hour and 50 minutes, stressing the musical implications contained in approximately 4000 sonorous events determined by chance.
What is the function of chance in your music? Chance means absence of intention, a way to free from taste and personal biases. It's the way to accept the whole world of sound, which has a meaning by itself.
Don't you think that your ideas, that ten or twenty years ago certainly possessed quite an energy and breaking-barrier character, are surpassed today and that have lost their biting? I don't care about the past. I keep on going my way.
Caption: John Cage smiles
What are your next projects? I'm writing etudes from solo violin. On May 13 in Turin, you will hear the first sixteen, dedicated to Betty Freeman, an American patron who had commissioned them. I'm currently writing sixteen more pieces. There will be no way to perform some of them. Or maybe there will be, with the synthesizer perhaps. It's a challenge.
What is your relation with tradition? What do you mean?
Before us, there have been composers that we must deal with. I follow tradition. I follow Schoenberg's works, because I was a student of his, more than Stravinsky's. I like Erik Satie.
But Schoenberg never let chance into his work. That's true, but he had an omni-comprehensive musical mind; for him, there were infinite solutions to certain problems, like counterpoint.
He recalls some episodes at Schoenberg's school, where he was impressed by the charismatic personality of the maestro. What does it mean for you to write music? It means making some questions: each time the answer changes.
What are your musical preferences? Now I like Mozart. He's better than Bach.
Why? Because he aims at multiplicity, which interests me more than uniqueness.
Very kind, mild, with a pleasing smile, Cage sips tea at five, as he stares delighted at the pouring rain. He salutes me after pointing out that in his discourse he bans any word related to power and that his music is not dominated, as I had erroneously hazarded, but only facilitated by chance. And so will be in his next experiments with computer.
(from La Stampa Sera, n°123, Monday, May 7, 1984, by Enzo Restagno)
Yesterday, at 9.35pm, John Cage walks on the stage of Teatro Alfieri: a worn out jeans outfit is dressing the agile and lanky figure of music's enfant terrible, who was born in Los Angeles seventy-two years ago and who is now in Turin for a festival dedicated to him that will last a couple of weeks.
The hall is packed and it was not easy to get in it: the promoters (Cabaret Voltaire and the cultural administrations) are visibly pleased. John Cage sits at a table on which a microphone is placed and opens a folder: it is the Italian premiere of his work Muoyce — whose title stems from the union of the words Music-Joyce – but knowing that the text comes from Finnegan's Wake text and recomposed into unintelligible phonemes does not matter much.
John quietly sings into the microphone without abusing its amplification: the tone resembles that of a Gregorian liturgy that could bump into any casual accident. The performance would exactly continue for one hour and forty-five minutes at the same pace, with no change of intensity; only some pauses are apparently randomly interspersed every now and then, but, on the contrary, they are carefully articulated with remarkable musical timing.
Caption: John Cage reading Muoyce at Teatro Alfieri
Some people in the audience know, some other don't know what will happen, so after fifteen minutes the first signs of impatience commence: mutters, meows, whispers; later some bolder dissenting outbursts begin: ironic, upset, swelling like a river which is about to flood.
The audience starts to protest: a girl that is noisily swirling a key-chain receives a slap on her face by an angry professor and this causes an argument. Someone, relaxing after the cuddling rhythm of that interminable lullaby, thinking about the East of which John is a disciple and reassured by this idea, peacefully unwinds into his seat. Others, not too many, stand up and go away, whereas the majority stays to experiment to the very end the ferocious violence provoked by such a mild voice, that discreetly penetrates every disapproval.
Few times we admired Cage as Saturday evening. His ability to orchestrate nothingness, to extract some reactions from that sort of pneumatic void into which the spectators are imprisoned, is stunning. That monotone chant, meaningless but implacable, morphs into a giant mirror on which the shadows of the audience banalities, the inarticulate vulgarities of the swears and the disorganized protests are flowing magnified.
The hero of negativity, who once disquieted the ministers of structuralism in Darmstadt, still has very sharp nails. His impact on the destiny of contemporary music is an already well ascertained fact, but before triviality, impatience and all forms of aggressiveness that come to life by means of incomprehensible sounds, he will always stand as a protagonist.
(from La Repubblica, Tuesday, May 8, 1984, by Patrizio Gerus)
Who knows if John Cage has ever seen in the center of an American town a gigantic billboard with his face and name on it, like the one that has been recently placed in Piazza Castello in Turin. American musicians are usually warmly greeted in Europe and now Cage is guest of a two weeks festival between Turin and Ivrea arranged by Cabaret Voltaire, the Regional and Provincial Cultural Administrations, the Conservatorio (Music School) and the University, which welcome him in their halls for a series of meetings with their students.
However, the beginning of the festival did not feature an academic image of Cage, but rather that of a skilled 'provocateur' who is able to turn the reactions of the audience into a spectacle. It happened Saturday evening at Teatro Alfieri thanks to the Italian premiere of a work entitled Muoyce. It is indeed a typical Cagean performance where the word Muoyce stems from a contraction of the words Music-Joyce. Cage extracts from Joyce's Finnegan's Wake some verbal excerpts decomposing and recomposing them into pure phonemes that become the text of his work. In an extremely crowded theater – Cage possesses the charisma of eerie characters – he walks on stage and sits at a small table with a microphone. With a soft, mild voice he begins to sing his phonemes without abusing his amplification and continues undeterred following the lines of a carefully devised monotony. The chant is made of a uninterrupted succession of para-Gregorian lullabies that capture at times the ironic counter-chants of the impatient audience.
Among the many – more or less bizarre – meanings that can be attributed to Cage's performance, we would pick the only one that despite of its age is still working: that of the 'game' with the audience. Trapped into the inexorable monotony of the Cagean lullaby, the audience releases the most diverse reactions. Some, few actually, surrender to the call of the Eastern practices and peacefully unwind into their small intellectual Nirvana; some leave the hall upset and some others react with boos, curses, bustle and a slew of choruses gathered from the rudest musical tradition. I believe that those who pour this sonorous junk are Cage's most favorite spectators, those who better respond to his cruel negative Maieutics.
The phonic ugliness of a disarticulated protest is the merciless metaphor of modern man's condition in the music realm. The old Cage proceeds in the storm unperturbed: he is endowed with a formidable mastery made of fine psychological subtleties. Every now and then he stops to let the dissenting waves come together, then, like a fencer who glimpsed a breach in the opponent's attack strategy, he starts again with perfect timing. That discreet and meaningless lullaby perforates any resistance and reveals behind an apparent fragility an implacable energy. The 'game' lasts for an hour and forty-five minutes: before the hero of negativity that many years ago toppled the intellectual barricades in Darmstadt, the audience is on the string and when the lights are switched on, it bursts into a big applause. The enfant terrible, born in Los Angeles seventy-two years ago, makes a polite and sly bow in front of that audience which he will surprise again in the next days.
(from l'Unità, Wednesday, May 9, 1984, by Franco Pulcini)
Once again, the subtle violence of emptiness resulted in another collective psychodrama. The sadistic game of truth was perfectly carried out by John Cage, who presented for the first time in Italy (Teatro Alfieri, Turin) a lecture from Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. Muoyce, that is Mu(sic-J)oyce, was welcomed with whistles, boos and disapproving comments 'garnished with' all kinds of curses. It was the first encounter of a long series that will take place between Turin and Ivrea over two weeks, thanks to the association Cabaret Voltaire/Progetto Toreat and the Regional and Provincial Cultural Administrations. It is difficult to say whether their expectations were really unfulfilled or not. Joyce's Finnegan's Wake is a novel drawing inspiration from an Irish ballad that Joyce endures for an hour, just like Ulysses lasted one day. The stream of consciousness of his narrative in these pages is supported by drowsiness and it flows through a complex network of relations, analogies and allusions. Inextricable for most of the critics.
A remarkable article published last year by Romanian linguist Georges Sandulesco, entitled The Joycean archetype, demonstrates that the jargon of Finnegan's Wake is often an epiphany of prayers deformed, especially the Pater Noster, which becomes: panther monster, father ourder, afather noiser, our faryner, fadevor, fader huncher, ecc. We do not know if Cage in his version wanted to stress these ritual-ecclesiastic features, but for an hour and forty minutes, he had been harmonizing over some fragments of the cryptic novel an archaic lullaby that he iterated like an hypnotizing mantra.
Who knows how Joyce would have commented it, as he wanted to become an opera singer. It is not the first time that the unclassifiable American musician achieves this kind of result, but maybe a large part of the audience was not aware of this. There wasn't even any booklet or text distributed in the hall to explain the sense of his operation. To some people however, that unceasing moan for a ten thousand lire ticket, seemed intolerable. After twelve minutes, that we maliciously clocked, the hubbub commenced. And in a short time, this mass of 'intellectuals', so to speak, due to a part of the public, performed a pathetic and predictable skit. For the reader's sake, we will not mention here the obscene phrases – some unkindly delivered in English – yelled out, but we could enumerate animal cries, whistles, howls, tavern hymns, Juve, viva il Catania (soccer slogans), etc. The little musical culture in the hall manifested through Fra' Martino and Nel continente nero paraponzi-ponzi-po (popular Italian songs). There was even a slap and an ironic Cage for president.
It seemed quite clear that for the majority of the people Cage was just a name read behind some rock album cover, not the inventor of the conceptual music which challenged the promoters (Boulez and Stockhausen) of serialism after WWII.
Flying into the heavens of musical hypnosis with Cage: Freeman Etudes, violinist János Négyesy
(from La Stampa, n°114, Tuesday, May 15, 1984, by P. Gal.)
Violinist János Négyesy performed the other evening at the school of music John Cage's Freeman Etudes for solo violin, a collection of pieces written by the composer in 1977-78 and dedicated to Betty Freeman, the American patron who had commissioned them. In order to write these pieces, Cage studied the violin assisted by Paul Zukofsky, the soloist for whom the etudes were initially conceived. The pieces resulted in a stylistically homogeneous work, that leads the listener for more than an hour into the heavens of musical hypnosis.
The etudes follow, according to Cage's typical writing, brief impulses that peter out and open space to other impulses creating a restless, inexorable drip of sonorous events. Dissolving long notes prevail and are transplanted into the various registers of the instrument, diversely colored by means of the attack of the notes: on the strings, on the bridge, fluted sounds, etc...
Caption: János Négyesy performs John Cage's Freeman Etudes
The repertoire of hisses created with steady notes is varied; here and there longer figurations: quick drawings that slip through differently extended pauses, filling the holes of silence. All these fragments succeed with no trace of syntactic construction, but due to a purely mechanical scheme, challenging the patience of the listener, usually reluctant to the suggestions of musical narcosis. Nevertheless, the audience followed the concert within an attentive silence, barely disturbed by some timid sign of irritation.
It can be deduced from the afore mentioned pieces that violinist Négyesy played very well and he surely deserved the cordial applause the audience delivered him. John Cage, who was in the hall, walked on stage at the end of the performance to thank the spectators.
(from La Stampa, n°115, Wednesday, May 16, 1984, by L.V.)
Before a wide, very attentive young audience, violinist János Négyesy performed the other day at the School of Music, sixteen pieces that John Cage wrote for violin. Unlike the premiere at Ivrea, where they were not favorably welcomed*, the concert in Turin was positively appreciated. When the show finished, various groups of people remained and animatedly exchanged their impressions about the concert and more specifically about John Cage's visit in Turin, which will end on May 20.
I don't understand all this panicking and scandal aroused by the Cagean concerts — says Roberto Maffoddi, 26 years old student — For who knows, no astonishment is generated by listening to avantgarde music, made of many sounds perfectly harmonized. For who is just curious... well, he'd better stay at home.
Antonietta Cabodo, 33 years old clerk, disagrees: This isn't music. It's ok being experimental and try new things out, but this is fairly too much. Maybe I didn't understand anything, but the notes I heard seemed only a bunch of noises randomly amassed.
Then there are connoisseurs like Giacomo Rossi, who says: Cage is a true genius, at times unappreciated, who is able to communicate, by means of his strict and bold music, intense emotions that penetrate deep inside.
Marcello Pasta, 29 years old teacher, declares: It's mainly an aesthetic music, deprived of content, addressed to an exclusive elite of fans. It made me just feel bored. To Simonetta Varetto, dancer, Cage's music needs to be supported with images. Alone, as it is, it's too monotonous and hard to follow and comprehend. Surely Cage is a strange character: fascinating and spooky at the same time.
* Already by the end of the first note, there was heckling, which continued for the work’s duration. More than just shouts and booing, this heckling involved throwing of paper airplanes, toilet paper and - with only one page left to perform - a glass bottle, which landed only 2 feet from Négyesy, breaking and covering his pant legs in water. The heckling had not been spontaneous, however. Apparently, a few women, who had attended a previous avant-garde music concert had not liked what they had heard, and they paid a dozen school boys to come to this concert and heckle the performer of Cage’s Freeman Etudes for its duration. After the last note, Négyesy quickly bowed and walked offstage. Cage thought it was wonderful and surprisingly told him to go back out on stage for a second bow.
A few days later, Négyesy performed the same work in a concert hall in neighboring Milan, which out of fear of a possible riot was guarded by police with automatic weapons. That performance went smoothly, but Cage told Négyesy afterwards that he was disappointed that there had not been a riot.
(excerpt taken from the text by Peter Edwards that accompanied the program of the Freeman Etudes performed by János Négyesy at UC San Diego, on October 3, 2012).
(subtitle: At the Big club the performance of Cage's Branches, featuring the Cincinnati Percussion Group. The sarcastic impact of the irreverent artifices invented by Cage twenty years ago has inevitably dwindled. Three pieces of the 40's prove that Cage can be, when he wants to, an excellent composer apart from being a nice fellow charged with positive energy)
(from La Stampa, n°116, Thursday, May 17, 1984, by Massimo Mila)
An inveterate passion for percussion made me pick, among the many occasions that are celebrating John Cage's presence in Piemonte, the concert featuring the Cincinnati Percussion Group. Allen Otte, James Culley and William Youhass: three nice guys for whom keyboards, drums, vibraphones, xylomarimbas, gongs, cymbals and any object capable to produce noise, have no secret.
The concert was entitled Branches, like one of the pieces by John Cage performed. The newest (1976), the most mystifying and 'scandalous' piece in which, drifting toward some culinary inclinations that had already appeared in the famous Fontana Mix, the composer let the three young men sit at a kitchen table on which a pot was boiling, so that peas, popcorn and other vegetables could emanate their barely audible sounds for some kind of vegetarian domestic symphony.
What is the point of these irreverent artifices that put Cage in the spotlight twenty years ago? It is commonly said that he was a providential groundbreaking phenomenon. In terms of breaking, he really did, but what? Once the temptation of vulgar misinterpretations is left, it is answered that he tore apart the monopoly of Darmstadt school. That's fine, let's admit it, although it could be inferred that smart, open-minded guys like Berio or Maderna would have also freed themselves from that tyranny, which was necessary like any school is.
Now that there is nothing to break into pieces anymore, because everything is shattered and there is already someone who is trying, hopefully, to put the pieces together again, the impact of Cage's sarcastic phonic jokes has inevitably dwindled. As Bortolotto says One thing is the poetry, Cage's musical thought, another thing is the music he wrote. On this note, we can agree with the statement of the same writer that is, Cage is a person who little did to be a composer considering what he produced after the 50s.
During his youth, Cage proved to be a real composer, with all the papers in order, through his prepared piano works, where the preparation of the instrument was just a bluff concealing a solid musical discourse: an ultimate and not infamous extension of the new 'continent for piano' discovered by Debussy and Scriabin, and later further explored by Bartók and Schoenberg.
Caption: The Cincinnati Percussion Group playing Branches
Amores (1943), Imaginary Landscape N. 2 (1941), and the thunderous, almost eloquent, Credo in Us (1942), in which piano, percussion and a radio loudspeaker harmonize blues reminiscences, offered the other evening persuading evidence that John Cage can be, whenever he wants to, an excellent composer, apart from being a nice fellow charged with positive energy, celebrated by the young audience packed in the Big club: an unusual Wonderland with all its colorful lights, its mirrors, its A night and one Thousand equipment, at least for who frequents only the bare halls in the schools of music.
The three skilled percussionists of the Cincinnati Group received applauses, particularly after a demanding work of pianist Frederic Rzewski, called Les moutons de Panurge: a funny, albeit long, arithmetic trick for three xylophones based on subsequent combinations, transpositions and subtractions of 64 notes. Perhaps, this is breaking again: the predicament of these notes, that flow after an interminable but constantly beheaded series like in the myth of the rams of Panurgo, which jumped into the sea following the first one, could be interpreted as a satyric Rabelaisian allusion to the numerical slavery of the orthodox dodecaphony.
Cage, piano is no longer the same; the wondrous Sonatas and Interludes
(from La Stampa, n°119, Sunday, May 20, 1984, by P. Gal.)
In 1946-48 John Cage wrote a collection of pieces for prepared piano called Sonatas and Interludes. Schoenberg was still alive and Cage was attending his school, but these short pieces draw inspiration from the Stravinskian side of contemporary music and even more from Bartòk, unfolding into an Eastern-like mikrokosmos in which the scales with their full tones remind us of Debussy, whereas the frequency of the ostinatos, with a stunning nocturnal music effect, irremediably lead us to the Hungarian composer, who moved to America in 1940.
The interest for Eastern thought and the taste for iterative music or better, founded on minimal harmonic, rhythmic and melodic variations, is revealed in these pieces and achieves a complete will of expression.
Caption: Giancarlo Cardini prepares the piano
The preparation of the piano, that is the manipulation of its strings by the insertion of external objects, adds a strange symphony of timbres to the delightful collection, filled with rhythmic inventions and possessing a delicate childish flavor.
The keyboard is divided into ringing zones, that sound like resonating bells, and other zones possessing a muffled and dull timbre. Some notes, finally, are definitely metallic and sound like a plucked string. The global effect suggests two or three instruments played at the same time but distant, as if they were 'pampered' or soaked in water. Nothing seems casual in this collection which is therefore opposite to what Cage would have done in the following years (even if he does not think so).
An example of this irreverent subsequent production was performed at the Auditorium by pianist Giancarlo Cardini during the second part of the concert, arranged by Cabaret Voltaire, in the first part of which he was admired for his scrupulous rendition of the Sonatas and Interludes.
Winter Music (1957) is a interminable series of chords and single notes with long pauses scattered throughout it; Solo for piano (1957) is a piece for theater of noise where the pianist does not play a note, but he performs all kinds of operations: he agitates metal sheets, activates alarms, radios and miniature trains, breaks bottles, shatters stack of plates, like Figaro in the Barbiere di Siviglia, and finally salutes the audience that, far from being scandalized at that point, pleasantly smiles.
(from l'Unità, Tuesday, May 22, 1984, by Franco Pulcini)
The two Cagean weeks in Piemonte organized by Cabaret Voltaire-Progetto Toreat ended with a monstrous performance in a sport hall in the outskirts of Turin called Le Cupole, which featured the participation of eight hundred children. It was a supplant, so to speak, event because the initial plan was entitled the amplified park project, that is the sonorization of a wood. Such an idea, conceived for and dedicated to children, could not be done this year due to the sudden unavailability of the technician who should have helped Cage, by means of an ad-hoc equipment, to let mushrooms, trees and grass 'speak'. A Musicircus was set up instead. It is an experiment already carried out, with adults, twice: in America and in Paris, at Le Halles, the old marketplace. It consists of the arrangement of various ensembles and performers that simultaneously play their repertoire in a vast space. In this case, as children from 4 to 12 years old were involved, there were small choruses, little ditties for one or more voices, games, short pieces for magic flutes groups, folk dances in costumes. The audience could enjoy the concert from above, appreciating the arranged din of such a childish chaos, or ramble through the ensembles, freely listening and looking in accord to its interest...
There were some particularly tight ensembles, made of disheveled rocking teachers-animators. Others, the teachers of the younger kids, were intimidated by the yelling multitude. Cage, as reported on the general program, should have conducted the concert. Actually, the nice prophet dressed up in jeans, signed autographs during the whole time regardless of the arthritis tormenting his poor hands. Maybe the children imagined that he was a pop singer, like our friend – even not too incompetent – met at Roberto Masotti's beautiful exhibition of Cage photos.
Cohesion of two experimental sensitivities, crossroad of two universes destroying the holiness of sound and gesture, union of the music and dance avantgarde, American composer John Cage proves once again, on the occasion of his recent meetings with our public, to be a singular personality open to every new experience, eager to research and always prompt to investigate the countless iridescences of perception.
Despite his figure has been amply vetted by the musical critique during his happenings, we would like to remember this disciple of Schoenberg for his decisive contribution to modern dance and for the influence he exerted on the third generation of choreographers, those who came after the Denihawn School and Martha Graham.
Thanks to John Cage, their new range of corporeal expressions definitely departs from any political message, embracing the theater of the absurd and using electronic, concrete and synthesized music, which, deeply influenced by his musical aesthetics and through an apology of noise against the rationality of canonical composing, does not try to harmonize anymore, but just aims at coexisting, in terms of duration and measures, with the choreographic score.
Even after the 70's, the evolution of modern dance would be conditioned by this maverick music: poor from a melodic point of view, but strongly rhythmic, repetitive, often free from the dance figurations, because of the disappearance of the synchronism between gesture and sound, and due to a new understanding of time and space. It will be the space factor, up to then only partially explored, the more fathomed one. And the movement of dance, or non-dance, would reflect the instant happening, predictable or unpredictable, perceived as an isolated gesture of everyday life.
And it was John Cage himself, the most revolutionary composer of his generation, the inventor of the prepared piano and its degraded sounds, the pioneer of the recorded tapes, to churn out the appropriate music for this theses. A music that emanated his contemplative and anti-egocentric vision of the universe, his Zen philosophy and his humor, expressed for example during the performance of his own work Butterflies after having freed a cloud of colorful butterflies in the concert hall. As if stressing his credo: To not impose anything, to let things be, to let each person, as well as each sound, be at the center of the universe.
His influx on dance would be so precocious and decisive that in 1942 already, Jean Erdman, a pupil of Martha Graham, would choose Cage's music for her first choreographies: Forever and Sunsmell, Daughters of the Lonesome Isle, Ophelia. Also Valeria Bettis, a pupil of Hania Holm, with And the Earth Shall Bear Again; Merle Marsicano in 1952 with Idyl, Passage and Fragment for a Greek Tragedy; Hans van Manen in 1972 with Twilight and Solo for Voice V and Emery Herman with The Pallid Horse. Last, the most important partnership of all: that between Merce Cunningham and John Cage.
It is the most famous. A collaboration that started in 1942 since the first Cunningham solo (Totem Ancestor) that has lasted up to now: from Chicago's Art Club to New York's Studio Theater (Root of an Unfocus, Spontaneus Earth), from Lincoln Kirstein's Ballet Society (The Seasons) to Venice's Fenice Theater (Music Walk with Dancers) and the Opera in Paris (Changing Steps, Un Jour ou Deux). A couple that has for forty years exhibited in front of a worldwide audience with a growing success.