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All Things Cage: Laura Kuhn on Cage's Satie, Composition for Museum

Oct 04, 2021: 4am - 5am
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Hosted by Laura Kuhn, Executive Director of the John Cage Trust.

Today’s program takes a musical dive into Cage’s lifelong devotion to the French composer Erik Satie by focusing on Kuhn’s exhibition for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon, conceived in 2012 for Cage’s Centennial Year and entitled CAGE’S SATIE: COMPOSITION FOR MUSEUM. This was a sounded exhibition – the perfect form for remarkably interrelated content. CAGE’S SATIE bears resemblance to a Cage musicircus, wherein disparate musicians and musics are brought together for purposeful, simultaneous, non-obstructive group performance, but with a strong distinction: for whether Cage’s works freely intermingle within an ever-changing soundscape in the museum or are arranged into a fixed simulation of a single visit (as we hear tonight in an extended excerpt from the exhibition catalog CD), the works comprising CAGE’S SATIE are thematically related, and thus sound remarkably well together. This euphonious collage shouldn’t come as a surprise, since all of the works spring from something of a single source, revealing in their commingling very real interrelationships. Cage’s Satie-inspired compositions exhibit characteristics that are somewhat unusual for him: in turn traditional, modal, subtle, graceful, quiet, and monophonic. Some might say oddly subversive, if only for their unabashed beauty.

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!