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Friday, June 15, 2007

John Cage


In the spring of 1975, Ken a friend from town of Columbus, Georgia, say that John Cage was doing an artist-in-residence program at Columbus College, and was giving a performance on the coming Friday night.
That night Ken taped most of Mr. Cage's performance, as well as part of the "meet and greet" on the stage afterward. Marc and one of his friends asked Mr. Cage a couple of good questions, and his answers tell us a lot about the work he presented that night.
"Empty Words" is a four-part "non-syntactical" work based on the journal of Henry David Thoreau. For thereading, Mr. Cage sat at a desk with a lamp and a watch, the text on a book stand, and read part of the third part of the work, which has only syllables and letters. Mr. Cage gives an extended explanation of the work in his introduction, which is track one of this show. The reading, track two, lasted longer than the 30 minutes captured. The tape ran out, and Marc did not flip the cassette and record the rest of this part of the program.
Track four, "Music for Marcel Duchamp" (1947), is performed by Mr. Cage on a prepared piano, which I believe was an upright piano rather than a concert grand. As he explains in his introduction, track three, the work was written for Duchamp's segment of the film "Dreams That Money Can Buy" by Hans Richter.
Track five is a recording on the stage of the auditorium, during the post-program question and answer perioddescribed earlier. Mr. Cage gives more insight into his work and this evening's performance. From what he reveals in answer to Ken's question about the watch, I gather that each performance of "Empty Words" is unique, based on chance operations which involve his watch. Also, we learn that there were slides projected during the "Empty Words" performance, but Mr. Cage indicates that these were not coordinated with his reading.

For this the recording, noise reduction was used only on track one, the introduction to "Empty Words," to improve the clarity of Mr. Cage's introduction to the piece. A parametric equalizer and spectrum analysis graph were employed to isolate and filter out hums from the auditorium air conditioning system. Volume was boosted on tracks one and three, both introductions spoken off-mic by Mr. Cage. The audio level of "Empty Words" is unaltered from the original recording, as the loud and quiet passages are essential elements of the work.

I am looking for more information about this performance. I know that an art instructor at the school was filming with a 16mm camera while I was on the stage with Mr. Cage and Marc and his friends, but I do not know how much more was filmedor whether that film still exists. Any additional information would be welcomed.

Auditorium, Columbus College Columbus, GASpring, 1975. 1. Introduction to "Empty Words" 2. Empty Words (incomplete) 3. Introduction to "Music for Marcel Duchamp"4. Music for Marcel Duchamp 5. Questions and Answers.

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