Music & Public Life

John Cage & Public Life

This collection of events celebrated the centenary of John Cage (1912-1992) and focused on his understanding of music as a social process.


John Cage Writes

Monday, December 3, 2012 through Sunday, March 10, 2013

Olin Library, 252 Church Street, Middletown

Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives presented the exhibition “John Cage Writes”, mounted in museum cases on the first floor of Olin Library. The exhibit focused in part on the five books Cage wrote that were published by Wesleyan University Press: Empty Words, M, Silence, X, and A Year from Monday. Silence has been hailed as one of the most important works on music by a 20th century composer. Cage donated the papers related to his writing to Wesleyan, and the exhibition drew on these materials, the archival records of Wesleyan University Press, and other materials from Special Collections and Archives. Among the items included were correspondence, notebooks, manuscripts, photographs, editions of Cage’s works, and examples of his influence on book artists. Curated by University Archivist Leith Johnson and Suzy Taraba, Director, Special Collections and Archives.


Richard Kostelanetz Lecture

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 4:30pm

CFA Hall

Richard Kostelanetz, the noted literary artist and author of over 100 books, including the first biography of John Cage, discussed the social dimension of John Cage's work.


Etcetera & HPSCHD

Friday, December 7, 2012 at 8pm

Crowell Concert Hall

The Wesleyan University Orchestra performed John Cage's Etcetera (1973), which was commissioned by Wesleyan University for the inauguration of the Center for the Arts. This orchestra piece calls for three conductors who stand before stations of two, three, and four chairs. Orchestra members, seated around these stations and gently playing cardboard boxes, may elect to move to a station and submit to the direction of one of the conductors. In this way, the piece presents the orchestra not as a factory of sound unified by the baton of its conductor, but as a heterophonic play of individual freedoms and group commitments. Conducted by Peter Hadley, Brian Parks and Alissa Meyer.

Following the performance of Etcetera there was an extended performance of HPSCHD (1969) by the Wesleyan New Music Alliance in Fayerweather Beckham Hall. HPSCHD was composed collaboratively by John Cage and Lejaren Hiller as an attempt to enact the possibilities of computer music in terms of abundance and variety rather than singular control. First performed at the University of Illinois, the work was presented as an open environment in which the audience freely moves between multiple harpsichord soloists while enveloped in an environment of up to 51 distinct channels of sound generated via tape playback systems. Brian Parks, Jason Jia and Neely Bruce played harpsichord alongside visuals designed by John Toth.


Song Books by John Cage

Saturday, December 8, 2012 at 8pm

Crowell Concert Hall

David Barron and Wesleyan Professors of Music Ron Kuivila and Neely Bruce performed Song Books (1970) by John Cage. Vocalist Anne Rhodes MA '06 was also featured, recreating the role performed by Phyllis Bruce numerous times between 1978 and 1987. With assistance by artists from the former Connecticut Opera.

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