Graduate Recital by Stuart Wheeler: Performance of John Cage’s Empty Words

Friday, April 30, 2021 at 8:17pm


From the evening of Friday, April 30, 2021 at 8:17pm into the morning of Saturday, May 1, 2021 at 7:47am, graduate music student Stuart Wheeler will perform John Cage’s overnight piece Empty Words (1974).

Cage composed this in the 1970s by fragmenting and collaging language from Henry David Thoreau’s fourteen volumes of journals. The piece is divided into four sections, each two and a half hours long with 30-minute intermissions. It begins with a variety of large and small units of language (phrases, words, syllables, and letters), and steadily removes the larger units until the final section (timed to begin precisely at dawn) where only single letters and silences remain. Cage thought of this as “a transition from language to music.”

The performance will take place over Zoom; all times are in Eastern Standard Time. It’s a slumber party, so you're encouraged to put it on, stay up as late as you want, take a nap, go to sleep, and wake up. At dawn, open your windows and doors to let in the sounds from the outside world.