The city associated most often with John Cage is probably New York, where he lived for nearly five decades and created most of his work. But he was born in Los Angeles, and spent much of his youth there, as illuminated in this essay by Mark Swed. (See also this guided tour of Cage’s formative years; the historical tidbits and rare photos, such as the one on the left from 1932, are well worth a look.) The Los Angeles in which Cage came of age was a progressive, freewheeling, optimistic environment, with a burgeoning entertainment industry and community of émigrés who reshaped America’s artistic and cultural development. Cage’s early career included a stint at UCLA, where during the 1930s he studied with Arnold Schoenberg, worked as a dance accompanist, taught a course, and began experimenting with unorthodox instruments. Next week his Californian connections are evoked afresh in yet another event celebrating his centenary: On Sunday, 2 December 2012, UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music and the Hammer Museum will co-present a day of performances, lectures, and a panel discussion reflecting on Cage’s roots and his legacy in music, dance, art, design, and architecture.
We mention this event here especially because at 1:00 p.m. in the Hammer Courtyard will be a 50-minute rendition of Song Books, produced by UCLA musicology professor Nina Eidsheim with Vir2Ual Cage colleagues Paul Berkolds, Jacqueline Bobak, and Mark Bobak, joined by CalArts graduate students Katie Gardner, Kirsten Ashley Wiest, and Paul Matthis. Other music will include Cage’s String Quartet in Four Parts, performed in the morning by the LaMi Quartet from UCLA, and an evening concert, featuring Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano, by LA-based pianist Gloria Cheng. The evening will include a Q & A session with Nancy Perloff, curator of the Getty Research Institute. Presenters will include Thomas Hines, Sue Ellen Case, Susan Leigh Foster, Marjorie Perloff, and Erkki Huhtamo—a truly multi-disciplinary cast of scholars across various fields—followed by a panel of musicologists from UCLA, who will discuss Cage’s vast influence. This mini-conference will begin at 10:00 a.m. and end after the evening’s concert, which will begin at 6:00 p.m. Admission will be free. For a detailed schedule and other information, please visit the Hammer online.
The Hammer Museum ranks among Los Angeles’ leading venues for exhibitions and programs that emphasize contemporary arts. The Hammer’s current season includes plenty of music, featuring a residency by the colorful ensemble wild Up, whose members Mark Menzies and Richard Valitutto will perform Morton Feldman’s For John Cage at the museum on December 6th. In association with UCLA, the Hammer’s mission is to “approach the arts with the same quest for knowledge, discovery, and understanding that guides the scientist, engineer, or anthropologist” and to “pursue the margins, explore unknown territory, rediscover the familiar, and take risks.” The entire Vir2Ual Cage team shares this mission, and we’re proud to be part of this event. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, please do come see us!