John Cage wrote two works that were tied to specific places: 49 waltzes for the five boroughs (1977), a tribute to New York City and A dip in the lake: ten quicksteps, sixty-one waltzes, and fifty-six marches for Chicago and vicinity (1978). Both pieces are for “performer(s) or listener(s) or record maker(s)” and consist of lists of locations in the city. The locations are grouped into pairs (quicksteps), threes (waltzes), or fours (marches). There are no instructions about what to do with these, but the only realizations that I’m aware of have involved making recordings (audio or video) of the ambient sounds at the different locations and then mixing them into a master recording. It’s a kind of audio geocaching, a soundmap without the internet. In a way, too, it’s the classic John Cage experience: open your ears and hear what’s actually there.
The pieces can be “transposed” to locations other than New York and Chicago. I was contacted recently by Stefano Zorzanello of the Sicilian Soundscape Research Group about a project to assemble a version of A dip in the lake in Potenza, the capital of the southern Italian region of Basilicata. This project involved the community in various ways. Some of the locations were chosen by children throwing a ball onto a map of the Potenza area, for example. The recordings have been made and the final result will be performed on 17 February 2013.
Stefano asked me if I would write a short text for the program book, and naturally I agreed. I won’t be in Italy for the premiere, but if you happen to be in Basilicata in February, you should look them up and have a listen.