All Things Cage: John Cage's "Variations VII"
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Hosted by Laura Kuhn, Executive Director of the John Cage Trust.
Tonight’s program takes a look at Cage’s series of “variations” works, with emphasis on his Variations VII an elaborate technologically driven performance piece that was conceived for and included in “9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering,” a performance series presented by Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City October 13-23, 1966. E.A.T. is a nonprofit organization co-founded in 1966 in New York by artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman and engineers Fred Waldhauer to encourage and facilitate collaborations between artists and engineers. Julie Martin, long-time wife to and now widow of Billy Klüver, who died in 2004, contributed much to tonight’s program, as she continues to carry the E.A.T. torch. She is the current director of E.A.T. as well as co-executive producer, with the Swedish journalist and independent movie and documentary director Barbro Schultz Lundestam, of a series of films begun in 1995 that document the artists’ performances presented at “9 Evenings,” including John Cage’s, which was published by ArtPix in 2008. We listen to a lengthy excerpt from this DVD, which in its entirety documents the only complete performance of Variations VII and also presents a stereo audio recording of the full 85 minutes of the 1966 performance.
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 email@example.com. 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!
Photos provided courtesy Julie Martin/E.A.T.