Last June I reported on how sfSound has been celebrating the 100th birthday of John Cage (born on September 5, 1912) by planning a series of concerts throughout 2012 inspired by the composer’s “Variations II.” Charles Amirkhanian, Executive and Artistic Director of Other Minds, has announced that his group will honor this centennial occasion next month (the month of Cage’s birth) with an eight-hour film festival entitled John Cage & Friends. This will be divided into four screenings taking place between 2 p.m. and midnight on Saturday, September 22, according to the following schedule:
2 p.m. PROGRAM ONE: CAGE SPEAKS! 91 minutes
I’VE GOT A SECRET (1960, 10 minutes) Prime time meets the musical avant-garde when John Cage performs Water Walk on this popular television game show – and accidentally foments a labor dispute.
NEW MUSIC: SOUNDS AND VOICES FROM THE AVANT-GARDE Blackwood Productions (1971, 51 minutes) Made for German television, this rare and revealing look at New York’s musical avant-garde was only recently released in the United States and includes extensive footage of John Cage, David Tudor, Morton Subotnick, Gordon Mumma, Earle Brown, Fluxus artists Ben Patterson and Joe Jones as well as youngsters Steve Reich and Philip Glass.
ASPECTS OF A NEW CONSCIOUSNESS, DIALOGUE III Stephen Chodorov/Camera Three (1969, 30 minutes) In this rarely screened interview, Cage clearly and patiently explains his processes and artistic strategies, and comments on some of his more important pieces.
PROGRAM TWO: CAGE MEDIA MIX
80 minutes total
In 1966, a group of innovative NY artists – including Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, and David Tudor - collaborated with scientists from Bell Labs on a series of wildly innovative tech performance pieces. These Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) are legendary, groundbreaking examples of performance and installation art.
JOHN CAGE: VARIATIONS VII Billy Klüver, Julie Martin, Barbro Schultz Lundestam (1966; edited 2008 40 minutes) Cage’s Variations VII signals a radical use of electronics and telephony, juxtaposing real time sounds as diverse as downtown traffic, ongoing live performances, and Terry Riley’s turtle tank!
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG: OPEN SPACE (1966; edited 2007 20 minutes) A fascinating precursor of installation art, Open Space begins with a tennis game, played with rackets outfitted with contact microphones and FM transmitters. Each ball hit triggers a loud bell and switches off one of the court lights – leading eventually to music in the dark. This startling piece also uses infrared television cameras, amplified audio, and large-screen projection. With Frank Stella, Simone Forti, Robert Rauschenberg.
DAVID TUDOR: BANDONEON! (1966; edited 2009 20 minutes) Working with Bell Labs technicians, Cage’s collaborator David Tudor uses a wired accordion to trigger a complex system of audio and visual signals. Shifting sound across multiple speakers, activating lights and video images, Tudor’s Bandoneon! becomes an enormous living, breathing installation.
7:30 p.m. PROGRAM THREE: CAGE IN CONTEXT 74 minutes total
COMPOSITION IN BLUE Oskar Fischinger (1935, 4 minutes) A stunning short animation by Oskar Fischinger, whose remarks to his assistant John Cage - ”Everything in the world has its own spirit, and this spirit becomes audible by setting it into vibration” – greatly influenced the young man’s thought.
I’VE GOT A SECRET (1960, 10 minutes) repeated
JOHN CAGE: I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY AND I AM SAYING IT Alan Miller / Vivian Perlis (1990, 60 minutes) An hour-long introduction to Cage and his work, highlighting lively excerpts from his pieces for prepared piano, percussion, conch shells, bird calls, etc. With art-world luminaries Marcel Duchamp, Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, David Tudor, Laurie Anderson, Nam June Paik, Charlotte Moorman, Margaret Leng Tan, et al.
9:30 p.m. PROGRAM FOUR: CAGE & CUNNINGHAM 98 minutes total
ALLEGRETTO Oskar Fischinger (1936, 3 minutes) A stunning color animation by Oskar Fischinger, who was a seminal early influence on Cage – and a prescient pioneer of abstract film.
CAGE/CUNNINGHAM Elliot Caplan (1991, 95 minutes) Choreography by Merce Cunningham; music by Cage. This feature traces the groundbreaking collaborations of choreographer Merce Cunningham and his partner John Cage. Featuring rare and candid footage from the Cage and Cunningham archives, this is a sensitive portrait of two men whose iconoclastic thinking revolutionized contemporary music and performance.
This festival has been organized and will be curated by Peter Esmonde. It will take place at the Roxie Theater (3117 16th Street in the Mission), beginning at 2 p.m. on Saturday, September 22. Tickets will be $10 for each screening and $30 for an all-day pass. Further information will be available through the Roxie Web site or by calling 415-863-1087. In addition, Other Minds will be selling $100 VIP Festival Passes through an Eventbrite page. In addition to providing priority seating for all four screening, the pass includes the Other Minds CD of Cage’s 18 Microtonal Ragas, a Festival T-shirt, and a paella dinner (drinks not included) at the Picaro Tapas Restaurant (across the street from the Roxie) during the dinner break at 5:30 p.m.