The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and The John Cage Trust at Bard College present two special concerts featuring works by acclaimed American composer John Cage. On Saturday, September 20, there will be a rare performance of Cage’s The Ten Thousand Things in the Fisher Center’s Theater Two, at 8 p.m., with a preconcert talk at 7 p.m. by musicologist James Pritchett. On Sunday, September 21, Sō Percussion will debut Branches, a new, multimedia program at Bard, with a performance of We Are All Going in Different Directions in the Sosnoff Theater at 3 p.m.
As a force in contemporary music, John Cage has a monumental stature. It’s been said that he has had a greater impact on world music than any other American composer of the twentieth century.
“John Cage’s artistic legacy is formidable,” write the members of acclaimed new-music group Sō Percussion. Reflecting on Cage’s creative output, they note, “His innovations and accomplishments are truly staggering: he wrote some of the first electric/acoustic hybrid music; the first significant body of percussion music; the first music for turntables; invented the prepared piano; and had a huge impact in the fields of dance, visual art, theater, and critical theory. We have chosen some of our favorite Cage pieces to present in this celebration concert, the first of our new project called Branches at Bard College and The Bard College Conservatory of Music. We believe that although they are historical in fact, each is stunningly present and even prophetic. The pieces are woven in with new music, some by our close friends and some of our own creation.”
Musicologist James Pritchett will give the preconcert talk for Saturday’s performance of The Ten Thousand Things, a project initiated by John Cage in 1953 involving the composition of independent pieces for various media, each bearing a number title, each capable of being played alone or together with any number of the others. Such an open work could be added to constantly, and since the performing ensemble would not be fixed, Cage’s composition remains perpetually “in progress.” This performance brings together five of these pieces, spanning the years 1953 to 1956, in a chance-determined musical collage: 59 ½” for a String Player (1953), 45’ for Speaker (1954), 31’ 57.9864” for a Pianist (1954), 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player (1955), and 27’ 10.554” for a Percussionist (1956). Performers for this program include Marka Gustavsson, viola; Laura Kuhn, voice; Garry Kvistad, percussion; Robert Martin, cello; and Adam Tendler, piano.
Branches — named after one of John Cage’s later works — is a new project at Bard. Curated by Conservatory faculty Sō Percussion, it is an experiment in hybrid arts. Music, theater, video, dance, visual art, and other media are explored in the spirit of openness and adventure that Sō Percussion brings to its own work, which is directly inspired by Cage’s. We Are All Going in Different Directions captures that spirit in a performance with Bard musicians that includes classic Cage scores and new original works. Performers for this program include Sō Percussion’s Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, and Jason Treuting, with guests Joan Retallack; Erica Kiesewetter, violin; and Frank Corliss, piano; along with students in the Bard College Music Program and Bard Percussion Studio. Works to be performed include Cage’s “Credo in Us” (1942), “First Construction (in Metal)” (1939), “Quartet for Percussion” from She Is Asleep (1943), Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard (1950), “Third Construction” (1941), and 18’12”, a simultaneous performance of Cage works “Inlets (Improvisation II)” (1977), “0’00 (4’33” No. 2)” (1962), Cartridge Music (1960), 45’ for a Speaker (1954), and “Child of Tree” (1975). These Cage pieces are complemented by Sō Percussion/Matmos’ “Needles” (2010), “Use” (2009) by Cenk Ergün (b. 1977), and “24 x 24” (2011) by Sō Percussion’s Jason Treuting (b. 1977).
About the artists:
James Pritchett was one of the first musicologists to deal with John Cage’s music on its own terms — as music. His research presented the first clear documentation of Cage’s chance operations of the 1950s. Pritchett is the author of The Music of John Cage (Cambridge University Press, 1992), the first critical study of the whole of Cage’s work. He has also written on the work of pianist/composer David Tudor and is currently trying to find a way to write about the music of Morton Feldman. Pritchett is married to composer Frances White, and they have collaborated on various works, currently a series with music and text inspired by the fairy tale “The Princess in the Chest” from Andrew Lang’s The Pink Fairy Book. Read more of his writing on music at the website The piano in my life (rosewhitemusic.com/piano).
For over a decade, Sō Percussion has redefined the modern percussion ensemble as a flexible, omnivorous entity, pushing its voice to the forefront of American musical culture. Praised by the New Yorker for its “exhilarating blend of precision and anarchy, rigor and bedlam,” the group’s activities range from commissioning new works by notable composers (Steve Reich, David Lang, Steve Mackey), to the members’ own music, to creative collaborations with many different types of artists. The group has been featured at many major venues in the United States, including Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Educational programs by the group include appointment as performers in residence at Princeton University, a percussion program at The Bard College Conservatory of Music, and the annual Sō Percussion Summer Institute at Princeton University. Sō Percussion has released 16 albums, many on the Cantaloupe Music label.
Tickets for The Ten Thousand Things are $30; tickets for We Are All Going in Different Directions are $25; and a weekend pass for both events is $40. Tickets and additional program information can be obtained online at fishercenter.bard.edu or by calling the box office at 845 – 758-7900.