Cage: Beyond Silence (CageFest)

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Country and Region United StatesPennsylvania
Type of Festival Dance, Literary, Music
Location of Festival Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Festival Contact Information

Dustin Hurt, Director

Festival Description

Bowerbird, the experimental-music presenter explores Cage’s contributions to music, dance, film, art and literature in venues across Philadelphia. In conjunction with the centenary of John Cage’s birth and the 20-year anniversary of his death, Philadelphia experimental-music presenter Bowerbird presents a major festival celebrating the acclaimed musician and theorist’s myriad contributions. Cage: Beyond Silence, presented in conjunction with the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Taking place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and venues across the city, Cage: Beyond Silence will unfold in three parts. The first, Move from Zero (Oct. 26-Nov. 4), will provide an introduction to Cage’s music, focusing on seminal works from his early career (c. 1950) and exploring a variety of stylistic periods through his solo repertoire. Featured performances include Sonatas and Interludes (Oct. 28), a work for prepared piano; MUSIC OF CHANGES (Nov. 1), an experiment in indeterminate music; and ORGAN2 / As SLow aS Possible (Nov. 3-4), an overnight organ concert at Philadelphia’s historic Christ Church.

Parts two and three — The Year Begins to be Ripe (Nov. 30-Dec. 12) and At Least We Have Begun (Jan. 11-20), respectively — will juxtapose two of Cage’s “magnum opuses,” the mid-career polystylistic Song Books (1970) and the late-career meditative series Number Pieces (1987-92). Several works will be given multiple performances, underlining the important role of the interpreter in realizing Cage’s scores and emphasizing the ephemeral and changing nature of these indeterminate works.

Cage’s tireless artistic exploration and innovation — which extends far beyond his early work 4’33”, the infamous “silent piece” that at times overshadows his subsequent 40 years of artistic output — produced one of history’s most nuanced musical voices, one that also had a profound influence on visual arts, film, dance and literature. To that end, Cage: Beyond Silence is presented in conjunction with the PMA’s major exhibition Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp (on view Oct. 30, 2012-January 21, 2013).

Festival Dates October 26 , 2012 - January 20, 2013
Festival Links

Festival Story:

Situated at the forefront of artistic experimentation, Bowerbird is a Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization that presents music and interdisciplinary events by local and internationally recognized artists at a variety of venues across the region. The mission of Bowerbird is to raise the public’s awareness and understanding of provocative and divergent music traditions by providing numerous and diverse opportunities to directly experience the work of today’s leading artists. For more information, visit


Festival Events:

Part II — Programming schedule 2012:
    Friday, November 30, 8:00pm, $15
    Christ Church Philadelphia, 20 N. American Street
    • The first of four realizations of Cage’s magnum opus Song Books, New York-based Ne(x)tworks (led by Joan La Barbara and including musicians Shelley Burgon, Yves Dharamraj, Miguel Frasconi, Stephen Gosling, Ariana Kim and Christopher McIntyre) will perform an ensemble-size, concert-length version at the historic Christ Church in Old City.
    Saturday, December 1, noon-4:00pm, free with museum admission
    Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Ben Franklin Parkway
    • Weaving through the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Dancing Around the Bride exhibition, this performance of Song Books features short vignettes and tableaus performed by members of Ne(x)works.
    Sunday, December 2, noon-4:00pm, free with museum admission
    Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Ben Franklin Parkway
    • Talks, workshops and hands-on activities: Unpack Song Books with our expert guides, Joan La Barbara, Richard Kostelanetz and other guests. The beautiful score includes more than 90 solos exploring a wide range of notational systems, including pictures, maps and text.
    Friday, December 7, 8:00pm, $15
    Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 3723 Chestnut Street
    • For the third interpretation of Song Books, The BSC (Bhob Rainey, soprano saxophone/director; Greg Kelley, trumpet; James Coleman, Theremin; Liz Tonne, voice; Chris Cooper, guitar and electronics; Vic Rawlings, cello and electronics; and Mike Bullock, bass) presents its own unique evening-length concert version, this time in the spacious Philadelphia Cathedral. The BSC is an ensemble recognized for the ability to push the boundaries of electro-acoustic sound production.
    Saturday, December 8, noon-4:00pm, free with museum admission
    Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Ben Franklin Parkway
    • The fourth and final version of Song Books brings the BSC’s members to the main stage of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Dancing Around the Bride exhibition for a series of intimate performances inspired by the backdrop of Rauschenberg’s Walkaround Time.
    Sunday, December 9, 8:00pm, free
    The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street
    • With vastly open and indeterminate scores and happenings, Variations I – VIII (1958-67) is a series of compositions that foreshadows both Song Books and the Fluxus movement performance pieces. Sometimes scored as broadly as “for any number of players and any sound producing means,”Variation IV includes 0’00”, Cage’s second version of 4’33”. Performers include Bonnie Jones, Maria Chavez, Nate Wooley, C. Spencer Yeh and more.


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