John Cage in Buenos Aires

Scene from the Cage concert at the Teatro Colón

I was in Buenos Aires, Argentina a couple of weeks ago for a festival celebrating John Cage’s 100th birthday.  It was sponsored by the Teatro Colón and the Fundación Proa.  I was invited to give a lecture on Cage at Proa as part of a colloquium involving five other scholars and artists.  I spoke about “Cage’s silent piece(s)”, giving my latest thinking on four works:  Silent prayer, 4′ 33″, 0′ 00″, and One3.

The folks at Proa were great hosts (thanks to Juan and Aimé), and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable audience came to hear us all speak.  I had the great pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Branden Joseph (who talked about HPSCHD) and Henning Lohner (who spoke about Cage’s film One11). I was also happy to meet Pablo Gianera, who gave a beautiful talk about Cage and nature.

On Saturday, September 15th, there was a big 4-hour concert at the Teatro Colón, the major classical venue in Buenos Aires.  It is a beautiful, ornate building with a very European feel.  The concert was held in the multi-level foyer of the hall.  Aki Takahashi played the Sonatas and interludes.  Meeting her and hearing her rendition of this masterwork (the first time she’s ever played it publicly!) were highlights of my trip. Joan LaBarbara sang from the range of Cage vocal works, percussion music resounded through the foyer, etc.  The audience found places to sit around and among the various instruments (see photo above, taken from the balcony).

The final work on the concert was the absolute pinnacle of the concert and the trip:  Fifty-eight, for 58 wind players, one of the very last works that Cage composed.  The performers were distributed throughout both levels of the foyer, out in the open and in various alcoves.  For 45 minutes, the space breathed and reverberated with the sounds of long sustained tones from the 58 performers.  It was unbelievably beautiful.  I meant to walk around the space to hear it from different vantage points, but was just too transfixed to move from my chair. I found it a deeply moving experience, as did many others who were there.  The audience wandered around a bit, but many people just lay down on the floor and soaked up the changing sonorities as they emerged and moved through the space.  Major kudos are due to Martín Bauer for arranging this performance.

The second and final stop in the (very brief) James Pritchett Cage Centennial World Tour will be Barcelona next month.

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