A Portland Circus on Cage’s Silence (with Linda Austin)

This performance, celebrating the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth, was curated by Mack McFarland at the Pacific NW College of Art.  Dancers, musicians and a poet were stationed in all areas of the building’s large open atrium, along balconies and in far flung corners.  Multiple and varied activities surrounded the mobile audience.

For the score, I selected several pages from Cage’s early composition Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard (1950), dedicated to the artists and designers Josef and Anni Albers.  Chance procedures determined time blocks, repetitions and fragments of the score.  Musicians were tasked with reconfiguring pitch material to fit the repetitions through the manipulation of note values and rests.  A series of 1-minute field recordings, contributed by students and others, were played in a sequence and at volume levels determined by chance procedures.  On an upper level, poet Lisa Radon recited a “writing through” of a Cage text throughout.  Audiences were free to move, viewing the performance from different perspectives or following dancers as they moved to different quadrants throughout the space.

A few challenges: first, how to make an event that is “Cageian” without being Cage.  We wanted to honor the spirit of Cage without simply creating a “cheap imitation”.  While allowing for some personal twists on Cage’s methods, we used indeterminate and chance-derived procedures throughout (thanks http://www.random.com!).  Another challenge is also the real benefit of Cage’s primary idea – his dictum to erase the ego, to follow the “operation of nature” and to be interested in what results.  It’s both difficult and rewarding to remove one’s desire from the determination of outcomes, to give up any idea of “the way it should be” and to let the score take over.  As Cage might say, what we don’t know is more interesting than what we do know (or think we know). – from the program notes by Seth Nehil & Linda Austin

Musicians:  Matt Carlson (synthesizer), Patrik Csak (glockenspiel), Jeff Diteman (cello), Jordan Dykstra (viola), Richie Greene (violin), Ben Kates (saxophone), Catherine Lee (oboe), Thomas Thorson (synthesizer) & Reed Wallsmith (saxophone).
Dancers:  Mike Barber, Jin Camou, Anne Furfey, Sally Garrido-Spencer, Keyon Gaskin, Carla Mann, Paige McKinney, Kaj-anne Pepper, Chelsea Petrakis, Kelly Rauer, Danielle Ross, Noelle Stiles, Emily Stone, Robert Tyree, Taka Yamamoto and Lucy Yim.

Spoken Text:  Lisa Radon

Pacific Northwest College of Art

Portland, OR, Oct. 3, 2012

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