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Program Information
All Things Cage
Weekly program featuring conversations between Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust, and Cage experts and enthusiasts from around the world.
Weekly Program
Weekly program featuring conversations between Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust, and Cage experts and enthusiasts from around the world.
 Wave Farm/WGXC 90.7-FM  Contact Contributor
Jan. 12, 2024, midnight
"All Things Cage" is a weekly program featuring conversations between Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust, and Cage experts and enthusiasts from around the world. If youd like to propose a guest or a topic for a future program, write directly to Laura at lkuhn@johncage.org.Laura Kuhn presents the first recording of John Cages Europera 5, preceded by her reading Recollections of the Premiere Performance by Yvar Mikhashoff. This recording of Europera 5 was produced by Brian Brandt and released on the Mode Records label as Mode 36 in 1995, with performers Yvar Mikhashoff, Martha Herr, Gary Burgess, Jan Williams, and Don Metz. Europera 5 is the last and most diminutive of Cages operas " preceded by Europeras 1 & 2 (1984-1987) and Europeras 3 & 4 (1991) " and was instigated by pianist Yvar Mikashoffs desire for a small, more practical and portable, and more easily performed work in the series, which had its premiere in Buffalo at the North American New Musical Festival on April 12, 1991.
Laura Kuhn writes, "Tonight’s program on “All Things Cage” is a “Birthday Celebration Broadcast,” in effect an “opera mix” created with and for the “Great John Cage.” The program is introduced by Sam Seliger, librarian and archivist for WKCR 89.9-FM, Columbia University’s radio station, and was originally broadcast live on WKCR in August of 1987, during the period that Cage was putting the finishing touches on his Europeras 1 & 2, composed on commission from the Frankfurt Opera on the occasion of the institution of its new director/conductor, Gary Bertini. This “opera mix” was created in real time at WKCR with Cage at the helm with a host of engineers, including Bard’s own Bob Bielecki, and it would ultimately constitute what Cage referred to as “Truckera,” a tape of 101 layered fragments of European operas heard from time to time passing through the percussion section of the small Europeras 1 & 2 orchestra. The host of the program is Brooke Wentz, a Barnard and Columbia alum who for a time served as the new music director of WKCR.

While I attended the premiere of Cage’s mammoth work in Frankfurt on Dec. 12, 1987, I missed both the original broadcast of tonight’s program in August of 1987 and its more recent re-broadcast on Cage’s birthday this year, Sept. 5, 2023. So, this evening’s re-broadcast via WGXC is as much for me as it is for “All Things Cage” listeners who were equally unaware. Europeras 1 & 2 was the primary work occupying Cage’s time in the 1985-1987 window, and it was also the composition that I spent most of my own time on, having begun work with Cage in New York in 1985. It brings back a lot of memories! Cage had assumed a Wagnerian role with this work – his first full-scale opera – handling virtually every aspect of its composition and creation, with a lot of help from his assistant, Andrew Culver. I found this work provocative and immensely engaging, so much so that Europeras 1 & 2 ended up being the subject of my 1992 doctoral dissertation from UCLA, fully titled John Cage’s Europeras 1 & 2: The Musical Means of Revolution. Tonight’s program, which runs in its original three hours, is heard here at WGXC in three parts, each running roughly one hour: Dec. 30 (Part I), Jan. 6 (Part II), and Jan. 13 (Part III), all heard on “All Things Cage” at its regularly scheduled times.

Europeras 1 & 2 derives its name from the words “Europe” and “opera,” suggesting the work’s content and sounding in its pronunciation like “your opera,” alluding to the work’s populist leanings. The “1 and 2” of its title denotes two, unequal parts – one 90 minutes in length, one 45 – separated by a 1’50” looping black and white film of chance-derived moments from both, created by Frank Scheffer. Europeras 1 & 2 is, like much of Cage’s work since the early 1950s, conceived largely via chance operations. The chance operations employed, however, are of unprecedented sophistication even for Cage, due to the use of high-speed computer technology to run “IC,” a stand-alone computer software program specially designed by Andrew Culver to simulate the coin oracle of the I Ching. The work’s musical “content” is the simultaneous presentation of arias and duets heard against and within a pulverized, decontextualized mass of 1-16 measure instrumental fragments drawn from 64 European operas of the past, all in public domain and ranging from Gluck to Rossini. Its cast of players is, by opera standards, somewhat small: 19 singers, 12 dancer/athletes, and a 24-piece orchestra, without the usual body of strings and with the unusual addition to its percussion section of the afore-mentioned “Truckera,” which we hear being created in tonight’s program. Its extra-musical elements are those commonly associated with the genre: elaborate lighting cues, costumes, and props, lively and varied stage actions, intermittent dance, and an imaginative, subtly shifting stage décor.
The late Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kenneth Silverman once described his "Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage" (Knopf, 2012) as the hardest book hed ever written. This was because, as he put it, pick up any rock and theres John Cage! Indeed, Cage was not only a world-renowned composer, numbering among his compositions the still notoriously tacet 433, but a ground-breaking poet, a philosopher, a chess master who studied with Marcel Duchamp, a macrobiotic chef, a devotee of Zen Buddhism, a prolific visual artist, and an avid and pioneering mycologist. He was also life partner to the celebrated American choreographer, Merce Cunningham, for nearly half a century, and thus well known in the world of modern dance. Episode 150. EVERGREEN

WKCR's “Birthday Broadcast”/Opera Mix for and with John Cage (1987), Part I Download Program Podcast
Weekly program featuring conversations between Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust, and Cage experts and enthusiasts from around the world.
00:58:00 1 Jan. 12, 2024
Produced for Wave Farm in the Hudson Valley in New York.
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