Performing John Cage

On Superbowl Sunday, instead of watching said bowl I became the first person in history to perform John Cage’s Song Books in their entirety during a single performance. I performed for four hours straight with no breaks.

The performance was part of the Vir2ual Cage CalArts project in honor of Cage’s centenary. Eventually it will enable users to put together an entire performance of the Song Books, which it will then arrange via chance procedures and allow you to watch and listen to your customized performance online. Neat, huh?

Performing them all was draining, but it was a good feeling finishing the final piece with about two minutes to spare. Everyone was supportive of what I was trying to accomoplish and many congratulations were doled out by the night’s end. My contemporary Max Wanderman performed one piece for the entire four hours, moving incredibly slowly, and we’re still not sure which of us was more tired!

The most important thing I took away from the experience was a memory of the meditative state that gradually enveloped my consciousness. In the haze of the modern artist’s hectic lifestyle, it’s a rare treat to be able to perform with the combination of focus and mindlessness that these classic works can inspire.

I’ll eventually get some recordings down of the various songs for the purpose of the online archive. Also, keep a lookout for an interview for a documentary web series by Lee Ray, coming soon! Below is a montage video of the performance, winkingly titled “The Long Books”, put together by CalArts. I’m the one at the end, performing Song 35, sometimes referred to as “The best form of government is no government at all.” Good times.

John Cage – Song Books

The Song Books were a two-part series plus instruction booklet John Cage put together in the early 1970s. Some are true compositions, some are theatrical or heavily electronic, some are merely vague instructions (trace a line on a map from a pond to a hill in Concord and sing the line using text from Thoreau). As I’m now a graduate student in composition and voice at the California Institute of the Arts, and as I’m taking a class called John Cage’s Song Books, I thought this video fitting.

I became incredibly busy almost immediately, but I hope to write a detailed post this weekend about the recent changes in my life and how I expect them to affect the direction of this li’l ol’ Jawshack blog.

Also this:

See you in a day or so!