All Things Cage: John Cage at Wesleyan University, Part 2: Laura Kuhn in Conversation with Neely Bruce
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Hosted by Laura Kuhn, Executive Director of the John Cage Trust.
Tonight’s program is the second of two that focuses on Cage’s time at Wesleyan University and consists of a conversation between Laura Kuhn and Neely Bruce, one of Cage’s most beloved colleagues there, a Professor of Music and American Studies since 1974. Neely earned his DMA from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, where his principal teachers were Ben Johnston, Charles Hamm, and Soulima Stravinsky. While at the University of Illinois, Neely met and worked with Cage during Cage’s own residency there in the 1960s, appearing in both Cage’s Musicircus in 1967 and in the premiere performance of Cage’s HPSCHD in 1969. Neely would go on to become well known for his association with Cage’s works, which included his directing The American Theatre Group’s stellar performance of Cage’s Song Books in 1979. In 1988, he executed a major symposium about Cage and his cultural influences, titled “John Cage at Wesleyan,” which featured many of the finest Cage performers of the day. In 1992, Neely was among the participants of the now legendary Cagemusicircus, presented by Essential Music and Andrew Culver on Nov. 1, 1992 at N.Y.’s Symphony Space, along with such others as Laurie Anderson, Irvine Arditti, Earle Brown, Stephen Drury, Annea Lockwood, Jackson Mac Low, Yvar Mikhashoff, Gordon Mumma, and a host of others.
When Kuhn first approached Neely about doing a show together for “All Things Cage,” she asked if he could speak to Cage’s influence on his own substantial work as a composer. He delighted her by producing a document he had produced years before on this very subject! After much discussion and listening, the decision was reached to play a few of his beautiful “Gymnopédies” (1980-2001) at the close of their program, all inspired by Erik Satie, of course, but also by John Cage’s love of the French composer. Neely is quite loveable – affable, energetic, and optimistic – and it’s no wonder that Cage spoke of him with such fondness of him for years to come.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
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