John Cage, Variations VII
Variations VII, an electroacoustic performance by John Cage, was presented on October 15th and 16th 1966. Entirely in line with his musical philosophy, we see the composer, assisted by a team of engineers and musicians, mix in real time sounds transmitted from the city and the noise of everyday utensils, which, combined, generate an incredible mass of sounds.
Compared with the roaring of the Niagara Falls by the artist Nam June Paik present that evening, Variations VII is considered to be one of John Cage’s finest electronic works. As is his wont, he employs all kinds of stray sounds to compose an immense musical poem: the sound of transistors, fans, toasters and other household appliances are here mixed with those of various places in New York linked by telephone: Terry Riley’s tortoise bowl, the rolls of the printing press of the New York Times, Merce Cunningham’s studio, a restaurant dining room, etc. Squeezed behind two tables littered with amplifiers and cables, lit by projectors placed directly on the floor, a group of operators, like waiters behind a bar, actuate modulators and plug and unplug micros under the baffled eyes of the public, while the blasts of this entirely improvised concrete symphony roll around and ring out in the high ceilings of the Arsenal.
Working during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, John Cage honed his skills in the midst of the growing American avant garde. Neither a painter or a sculptor, Cage is best known for revolutionizing modern music through his incorporation of unconventional instrumentation and the idea of environmental music dictated by chance. His approach to composition was deeply influenced by Asian philosophies, focusing on the harmony that exists in nature, as well as elements of chance. Cage is famous not only for his radical works, like 4'33" (1952), in which the ambient noise of the recital hall created the music, but also for his innovative collaborations with artists like Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg. These partnerships helped break down the divisions between the various realms of art production, such as music, performance, painting, and dance, allowing for new interdisciplinary work to be produced. Cage's influence ushered in groundbreaking stylistic developments key to contemporary art and paved the way for the postmodern artistic inquiries, which began in the late 1960s and further challenged the established definition of fine art.
Artistic direction / Conception
9 Evenings : Theatre & Engineering
We owe 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, a series of performances presented in the large building of the Arsenal of the 69th Regiment of New York, in October 1966, to the complicity between the visual artist Robert Rauschenberg and Billy Klüver, an engineer with the telephone company Bell. The concept was simple: allow a dozen artists to achieve the performance of their dreams thanks to the technology of the Bell laboratories.
Born from the experimentations of the members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and the Judson Dance Theatre, the 9 Evenings mark a decisive step in the changing relationship between art and technology. Evening after evening, projectors, video cameras, transistors, amplifiers, electrodes and oscilloscopes entered the stage at the service of ambitious, futuristic, iconoclastic or poetic visions – all filmed in black and white and in colour. When these films were rediscovered in 1995, Billy Klüver decided, in partnership with Julie Martin and the director Barbro Schultz Lundestam, to produce a series of documentaries reconstructing what had taken place on the stage and during the preparation of the performances. The original material was thus completed by interviews with the protagonists of each performance (artists and engineers) and a few famous guests. The 9 Evenings would thereby be restored to their place in the history of art.
Source : Sylvain Maestreggi