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  Electronic Music and Voice Concert:
Music by John Cage
Electronic Music and Voice Concert: Music By John Cage
Sunday, October 28, 2012, 2pm
$8/$7/$6/$5

Works performed by Thomas Gaudynski, Mark Mantel, Hal Rammel, Steve Schlei, Amanda Schoofs, and Heather Warren-Crow.

Part of the Woodland Pattern John Cage Centennial Celebration
Supported in part by a grant from the Milwaukee Arts Board

John CageJohn Cage (1912-1992) embraced new sound resources for electronic music as early as 1939. He was a pioneer in using available technology rather than waiting for the ideal technological instrument to be invented. Cage was the first American to compose a score for magnetic tape music with his Imaginary Landscape No. 5 in 1952, and he explored creative juxtaposition of compositions to create indeterminate simultaneous events. Cage also pioneered composing scores that would be used by the performer to determine their actions to create the music. An aspect of chance or indeterminacy is involved in each of the works on the program. With the exception of the vocal works and Imaginary Landscape No. 5, all the remaining works are unpredictable before performance. Cage also approached the voice as possibility for sounding based on his interest in "poetry." Famously stating in his Lecture on Nothing (1959): "I have nothing to say, and I am saying it, and that is poetry as I need it."

This Milwaukee celebration of his electronic music and voice works is performed by Milwaukee-area musicians grounded in Cage's work and his performative practice.

Program

Imaginary Landscape No. 5 (1952) for a recording made using any 42 phonograph records
Cartridge Music (1960) for phonograph cartridges and contact mics with Solo for Voice 2 and Duet for Cymbal (both 1960) for vocalise and amplified cymbals
Aria with Fontana Mix (1958) for voice and live recording mix
Music for Amplified Toy Pianos (1960) for amplified toy pianos
Solo for Voice 17 (telegraph harp) (1970) for voice using electronics and amplified saw
Fontana Mix (1958) for pre-recorded sounds, voice and percussion
Radio Music (1956) for one to eight performers each with a radio

About the works

Imaginary Landscape No. 5 (1952) is a score to complete a recording using any 42 phonograph records. The composition was commissioned for a dance by Jean Erdman. In the early 1950s, electronic music was generally composed by splicing magnetic tape together (called tape music). Cage had just begun using chance operations in his compositional practice, and he used chance to create a graph-like structure for up to eight channels of recorded sound in this three minute work. Because the dance had a character that suggested popular music and partly to overcome his aversion to jazz, Cage determined to use jazz records as the source material borrowed from his colleague Paul Williams' collection. This is an early work of "sampling." In the realization presented here, recordings of Cage's music were used instead.

With Cartridge Music (1960), Cage determined to amplify "small sounds" to reveal a completely new soundscape. Different objects (toothpicks, feathers, straws, etc.) are placed inside phonograph cartridges allowing the performer to create sounds in any manner with these highly amplified objects. The materials from the score are used by each performer to create a series of performance actions—inserting objects in the cartridges, changing volume and tone controls, and making additional sounds using contact microphones, etc. The score materials are also used to create performance actions for amplified cymbals in Duet for Cymbal (1962). The actions direct the performer to radically alter the sound of the cymbal throughout the performance.

In Solo for Voice 2 (1960), the performer uses the materials provided to determine a series of phonetic strings of letters and a series of suggested pitch lines with which to vocalize these strings. Modifications to the voice, speech, shouts, and other sounds can also be determined using the score. The singer decides in advance the length of the performance. Cage suggests the Solo for Voice 2 can be combined with Cartridge Music and/or duet Duet for Cymbals.

Aria is a virtuoso work first composed for singer Cathy Berberian in 1958. The text employs vowels and consonants and words from Armenian, Russian, Italian, French and English and indicates ten singing styles determined by the singer. The notation represents time horizontally and pitch vertically. The Aria may be sung solo, but also combined with Fontana Mix and/or parts of Cage's Concert for Piano and Orchestra. In this case, Aria is being sung with a live mix of three realizations of Fontana Mix realized as a series of recordings and mixed live in real-time based on readings from the score.

Fontana Mix (1958) was named after Cage's landlady, Signora Fontana, while he was living in Milan working with Luciano Berio, Berberian's husband, at the Studio di Fonologia. A watershed composition of Cage's, the score allows parts to be prepared from the score for the production of any number of tracks of magnetic tape, or for any number of players, or any kind and number of instruments. In this program, Fontana Mix is used to create prerecorded parts, a score for mixing those recordings, and to create a series of actions for percussion, voice and other actions to be performed simultaneously with recorded versions of the work.

Solo for Voice 17 (telegraph harp) (1970) is one a series of Songbooks (Solos for Voice 3-92) which concern themselves with one of four categories: 1) Song. 2) Song using electronics. 3) Theatre. 4) Theatre using electronics. Each solo is relevant or irrelevant to the subject: "We connect Satie with Thoreau." The text for 17 is by Henry David Thoreau using his words to describe what he calls the "telegraph harp," that is the sounds made by singing telegraph wires. The score calls for the singer to be accompanied by musical saw.

The concert concludes with Cage's Radio Music (1956). One to eight performers, each with a radio, follows an indeterminate score that has them tuning to chance derived locations on the tuning dial between sections of silence. Every time this work is preformed, because the samples picked up from the radio frequencies caught in time, the results offer a unique audio snapshot of the radio media and cultural spectrum at the time of performance.

About the performers

Thomas Gaudynski has been performing works by John Cage since 1976. He is a writer, sound and visual artist, and entrepreneurial scholar living in Milwaukee.

Mark Mantel's music explores the creation and layering of dense musical materials derived from physical models, text-driven and real-time live electronic elements, "found-objects," and theatre and theatrical elements. His music has been heard in many concert halls, galleries, performance spaces and alternative sites all over the U.S., and at venues throughout Japan, Australia, and Europe.

Hal Rammel composers and improvises with musical instruments and other sound sources of his own design and construction. He is an artist, photographer, writer, curator, and radio programmer active in Milwaukee.

Steve Schlei teaches music theory at UWM Peck School of the Arts. His current interests include electronic instruments, improvisation, and alternate tuning systems.

Composer/vocal improviser Amanda Schoofs fuses extended techniques with traditional forms of blues, opera, chanson, and punk. Always pushing the limits—she explores extremes in timbre, texture, and breath while playing with fragmented melodies, nonsensical phonemes, or _____ (text?). Schoofs is a composition and theory lecturer at UWM Peck School of the Arts.

Heather Warren-Crow is a performance and media artist based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has exhibited her work in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, India, Japan, Mexico, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, and across Europe and the United States. So far this year, she has screened performance-based videos at Dimanche Rouge in Paris, GT Gallery in Belfast, The Kitchen in NYC, KuLe Theater in Berlin, Microscope Gallery and Grace Exhibition Space in Brooklyn, The Museum of Ephemeral Art in Cartago, Colombia, and the University of Virginia, among other venues. Heather has a PhD in Performance Studies from the University of California at Berkeley.


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