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All Things Cage: The Works Comprising Cage's “Ten Thousand Things” Project (1953-1956), Part II

Oct 02, 2023: 5am - 6am
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All Things Cage: Laura Kuhn Talks About The Works Comprising Cage's “Ten Thousand Things” Project (1953-1956), Part II Broadcast Image

All Things Cage: Laura Kuhn Talks About The Works Comprising Cage's “Ten Thousand Things” Project (1953-1956), Part II Broadcast Image. Courtesy the John Cage Trust.

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

“The thing to do is to keep the head alert but empty. Things come to pass, arising and disappearing. There can then be no consideration of error. Things are always going wrong.” --John Cage

This evening program for “All Things Cage” continues its focus on a body of works known collectively as “The Ten Thousand Things,” a descriptive title championed by musicologist James Pritchett to denote a grand project initiated by John Cage in 1953 involving the composition of independent pieces for various media, each bearing a number title, each capable of being played alone or together with any number of the others. Tonight’s program will feature a program given at Bard College on Sept. 20, 2014, which comprised five works from the series – 59 ½” for a String Player (1953), 45’ for a Speaker (1954), 31’ 57.9864” for a Pianist (1954), 26’ 1.1499” for a String Player (1955), and 27’ 10.554” for a Percussionist (1956) – as performed in a chance-determined program lasting 90 minutes that featured performers Robert Martin, Adam Tendler, Marka Gustavsson, Garry Kvistad, and myself, Laura Kuhn. This 90-minute program from 2014 has been excerpted to fit our allotted time. The Bard program began with a pre-concert talk by James Pritchett, and I encourage everyone to take a look at his marvelous blog about “The Ten Thousand Things,” accessible here.

"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 lkuhn@johncage.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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