All Things Cage: Laura Kuhn talks with Joan La Barbara

Jun 17, 2024: 5am - 6am
WGXC 90.7-FM: Radio for Open Ears

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All Things Cage: Laura Kuhn talks with Joan La Barbara Broadcast Image

All Things Cage: Laura Kuhn talks with Joan La Barbara Broadcast Image. Laura Kuhn (left) Photo ©Ralph Benko. Joan La Barbara (right) ©Ellen Rietbrock. Courtesy The John Cage Trust.

Hosted by Laura Kuhn, Executive Director of the John Cage Trust.

Laura Kuhn talks with vocalist and composer Joan La Barbara, who’s renowned for developing a unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques influencing generations of other composers and singers. She has performed Cage’s works for decades, and in 2013 was among the guest collaborators with Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony in “Making the Right Choices: A John Cage Centennial Celebration;” in 2016 she received the Foundation for Contemporary Arts John Cage Award. Her numerous commissions for multiple voices, chamber ensemble, orchestra, interactive technology, and dance and film sound scores include “Sesame Street Signing Alphabet” (voice w/live electronics) broadcast worldwide since 1977 and collaboration with Jóhann Jóhannsson for the feature film “Arrival”. Her multi-layered textural compositions premiered at Brisbane Biennial, Festival d’Automne à Paris, Warsaw Autumn, MaerzMusik Berlin among other international venues. La Barbara was Artistic Director of the multi-year Carnegie Hall series, “When Morty met John”, focusing on the music of John Cage, Morton Feldman and the New York School. Kuhn and La Barbara have known each other for going on forty years, first working together on an excellent realization of New Music America in Los Angeles in 1985. Tonight’s program is framed by Joan’s renditions of two of the Solos for Voice from John Cage’s Song Books: at the start, Solo for Voice 49, and at the close, Solo for Voice 67, both from New Albion’s N035 CD, Joan La Barbara, Singing Through (1990).

"All Things Cage" is a weekly program featuring conversations between Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust, and Cage experts and enthusiasts from around the world. If you’d like to propose a guest or a topic for a future program, write directly to Laura at She’d love to hear from you.

The late Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kenneth Silverman once described his Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage (Knopf, 2012) as the hardest book he’d ever written. This was because, as he put it, pick up any rock and there’s John Cage! Indeed, Cage was not only a world-renowned composer, numbering among his compositions the still notoriously tacet 4’33”, but a ground-breaking poet, a philosopher, a chess master who studied with Marcel Duchamp, a macrobiotic chef, a devotee of Zen Buddhism, a prolific visual artist, and an avid and pioneering mycologist. He was also life partner to the celebrated American choreographer, Merce Cunningham, for nearly half a century, and thus well known in the world of modern dance.

No wonder, then, that nearly everyone who encounters the man or his life’s work has something interesting to say about John Cage!

Pictured above: Laura Kuhn (left) Photo ©Ralph Benko. Joan La Barbara (right) ©Ellen Rietbrock.