Wednesday, January 02, 2008

European premiere: John Cage - Variations VII

One of the highlights of AV Festival 08 (the UK's largest international festival of electronic arts) will be the first ever restaging in Europe at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art on Friday February 29th, of John Cage’s Variations VII, a work rarely heard since it was first performed at 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, held in October 1966 at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City.

"My project is simple to describe. It is a piece of music, indeterminate in form and detail ..........using as sound sources only those sounds which are in the air at the moment of performance, picked up via the communication bands, telephone lines, microphones together with, instead of musical instruments, a variety of household appliances and frequency generators....... they produce a situation different than anyone could have pre-imagined."
(John Cage on Variations VII, 1966)

This new performance of Variations VII will extend the Cage legacy by combining the equipment used in the 60’s version with what is available now in telecommunications and audio technology.

"Variations VII along with two preceding works, Variations V and VI, are unique in the extensive use of electronics and in particular use of photocells as a trigger device for activating and distributing sound."

"For "Variations VII" John Cage wanted to "use sounds available at the time of the performance". 10 telephone lines were installed in the Armory by New York Telephone Company. He had lines open in various places in New York City including Luchow's, the Aviary, the 14th Street Con Edison electric power station, the ASPCA lost dog kennel, The New York Times press room, and Merce Cunningham's studio. Magnetic pickups on the telephone receivers fed these sound sources into the sound manipulation system. Cage also had 6 contact microphones on the performing platform itself and 12 contact microphones on household appliances such as a blender, a juicer, a toaster, a fan, etc. He also had 20 radio bands, 2 television bands, and 2 Geiger counters. Oscillators and a pulse generator completed the sound sources. Thirty photocells and lights were mounted at ankle level around the performance area, which activated the different sound sources as the performers moved around. Cage invited the audience to move around freely and many stood near the performance area."

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