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All Things Cage: John Cage’s “Overpopulation and Art" (1991)

Oct 24, 2022: 4am - 5am
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Laura Kuhn Presents John Cage’s “Overpopulation and Art" (1991) Broadcast Image

Laura Kuhn Presents John Cage’s “Overpopulation and Art" (1991) Broadcast Image. Courtesy The John Cage Trust. ©Guido Harari

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

Laura Kuhn presents a live recording of John Cage’s performance of his “Overpopulation and Art” (1991) at Stanford University’s “Here Comes Everybody: The Music, Poetry, and Art of John Cage” on January 28, 1992, at which he made one of his last public appearances. When he set out to write this piece, he reached out to his friend Esther Ferrer with a question: What is the future of anarchy? Ferrer’s thoughtful reply is interwoven into Cage’s piece, a through-composed mesostic which is both unusually sensical and at times very funny. Kuhn also speaks of Cage’s “Anarchy” (1988), an earlier work evidencing his and Ferrer’s keen interest in the subject, as well as his Alla ricerca del silenzio perduto, known familiarly as “Il Treno,” a 1978 work for prepared train that traverses Bologna Cage composed in collaboration with Tito Gotti, Juan Hidalgo, and Walter Marchetti in which Ferrer participated as a performer. We listen to an excerpt of “Il Treno” at the close of our program, drawn from the beautiful Basterville Art Book complete with CDs and a DVD derived from the performances published in 2008.

"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!

Photo: ©Guido Harari