The main misconception about John Cage (1912—1992) is that he exhorted musicians to adopt an "anything goes" aesthetic. Instead, Cage rigorously systematized and honored the musical accident through chance operations. Cage also subverted the very identity of musical instruments through the use of junk percussion, the prepared piano, radios, and randomly arranged recordings. Most importantly, "4'33," the so-called "silent piece," upended the nature of music itself by forcibly coupling concerted listening to ambient sound. Now, an open pair of ears can find music anywhere.
Vancouver New Music has assembled an impressive four-day survey of Cage's music. Performances of Variations I, III, and IV (Wed Oct 18) presage the next evening's performance by Cage compadre (and BC resident) Gordon Mumma, who screens his documentary film *TIMESPACE*/Time'sPace and then performs David Tudor's Rainforest. Afterward, the renowned Cage interpreter and AMM member John Tilbury presents the Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano (Thurs Oct 19). Another masterly Cage exponent, Margaret Leng Tan (Fri Oct 20), plays works for piano, toy piano, and prepared piano. NY-based dub-plate sorceress Marina Rosenfeld leads a group performance of Atlas Eclipticalis, a score that superimposes transparent music staves atop a star chart (Sat Oct 21).
If you're not tempted by the alluring greatest-hits program or the dirt-cheap admission, console yourself with the superb CD David Tudor & Gordon Mumma (New World). The disc documents Mumma and Tudor's early realizations of Rainforest, a pioneering work of live electronic music and a beautiful jungle of chip-fuzz clicks, hiss, and stridulating circuits. It's an essential disc for anyone who loves electronic music.
The Vancouver New Music Festival runs Wed Oct 18—Sat Oct 21 (Scotiabank Dance Centre, 677 Davie St, Vancouver BC, 604-280-3311), 7:30 pm, $10/$15 each night. See www.newmusic.org/festival.htm for a full schedule.