Tag Archives: John Cage

High-voltage Baroque from CantiaQuorum

An electrifying performance of the Bach Double Violin Concerto from Alexandra Reid and Kathy Shave and the musicians of CantiaQuorum was the centrepiece of a concert bursting with energy on Friday.

A rapturous ovation from an enthralled audience greeted an agile reading of Bach’s concerto that bristled with vigour – the enthusiasm shared between the soloists was reflected by the ensemble as a whole.

WP_20150220_20_02_07_ProThe evening opened with Handel’s Silete Venti, conducted by Alex Caldon, with Susanna Hurrell’s bright, spinning soprano a perfect foil for the supremely accomplished Ilid Jones on oboe; the performance deftly captured the wide range of both the drama and the melodic grace of the piece, delivered with stylish aplomb.

WP_20150220_20_05_29_ProThe second half alternated movements of Telemann’s Tafelmusik with Cage’s Living Room Music; gathered around a dining-table, various members of the ensemble took turns to wield chopsticks, cutlery and even children’s toys to realise Cage’s exploitation of household objects, at one point updating it to deploy iPhones and an iPad to reflect the twenty-first century – an energy-drive reading of a different kind.


A fantastic evening, with an ensemble of professional players in tip-top form.

At Home Funk: CantiaQuorum back in two weeks

Our resident professional ensemble, CantiaQuorum, returns to Colyer-Fergusson in two weeks time with a programme of music based around your living-room.

220px-John_Cage_portraitLurking at the heart of a fascinating programme that include Bach’s sumptuous Concerto for Two Violins in D minor and Telemann’s Tafelmusik Suite in D is Cage’s Living Room Music, written for an unspecified quartet that plays any object or architectural feature which can readily be found in a living-room. The second movement sees the performers turn to speech, using parts of ‘The World Is Round’ by Gertrude Stein, whilst the contrasting outer movements see household objects transformed into funky percussion – less ‘Uptown Funk’ than ‘At Home Funk.’

The concert also includes Bach’s wonderful Concerto for Two Violins; I’ll leave you with the achingly-beautiful second movement, performed here live at the Proms by Rachel Podger and Andrew Manze.

Further details about the concert online here.

Ring for Children in Need this Thursday

A unique music premiere in support of this year’s BBC ‘Children in Need’ appeal will take place in the  new Colyer-Ferguson Hall this Thursday at 1.10pm.

Pudsey BearCombining the sixtieth anniversary of John Cage’s silent, yet controversial, musical masterpiece, 4’ 33’’, the event encourages audience participants to use their mobile phone ringtone as part of the one-of-a-kind performance. Each of the three movements will see participants ‘playing’ a different ring-tone from their mobile phone.

Three Movements in Ring-Tonality, written by your loyal correspondent, is both homage to Cage’s piece and an unusual opportunity to make music using an instrument normally banned from the concert-hall. It’ll be a terrific opportunity to raise money for a worthy cause, as well as to pay tribute to Cage’s masterwork in a novel manner that will make musicians of everyone who takes part.

The annual fund-raising event for Children in Need is a special part of our calendar and this year is even more exciting as we will be giving a world première in our brand-new concert-hall.

Come along; bring your mobile-phone (and a donation!) and prepare for the unexpected…

No Sound Resounding: sixty years of 4’33”

It’s almost hard to believe that this year is not just the centenary of Cage’s birth, but also the sixtieth anniversary of Cage’s noiseless yet sound-rich, notorious masterpiece, 4’ 33’’. Premièred by David Tudor on August 29 in 1952, the piece has gone on to cause controversy wherever and whenever it continues to be performed.

The BBC Symphony Orchestra performed the UK’s first orchestral version of the piece in a concert dedicated to the music of Cage in 2004.

Original programme cover
The original programme cover

Cage himself reflected on the first performance:

There’s no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.

Cage’s piece draws to the fore the interaction between performer, audience and environment, raising the significance of the non-directed elements present during the piece’s performance; ambient, unintentional noise, aleatoric sounds, events outside of the performer’s control and yet deliberately included as part of the experience. The piece makes room for all those surrounding elements over which the performer has no direct control, and makes them a part of it; it makes us listen not to an arranged series of controlled auditory events, but to whatever sonic incidents happen to occur during that defined time-period during which the piece is ‘performed.’ In fact, the only controlled element of the piece is the time during which these events unfold, defined by the raising and lowering of the piano lid in the piece’s original incarnation. Aside from dictating the beginning and end of each of the three movements, everything else is left to chance.

Tuesday marked the centenary of Cage’s birthday, and there have been events marking the occasion worldwide throughout the year including a special BBC Prom dedicated to Cage’s work (for which the back-up system on Radio 3 had to be turned off, a system which kicks in when it detects ‘dead air;’) yet it’s 4’ 33’’ that remains his most notorious, most thought-provoking piece, and arguably one of the most significant works of the twentieth-century. For a piece with no prescribed sound, its impact continues to resonate still.

Silent Night: Cage for Christmas no.1 ?

John Cage
Would he have approved ? John Cage

As reported in The Guardian yesterday, efforts are already underway to fix this year’s Christmas no.1: although this time, it’s a piece with a difference.

A campaign on Facebook is attempting to drive John Cage’s notorious 4′ 33″ to the top seasonal spot this December, in order to confound the usual hopes of chart-topping crooning from the Simon Cowell X-Factor stable.

I’m up for it: who’s with me ?