Despite an incredibly diverse career spanning six decades and uncountable genres, silence is what American avant garde composer John Cage is known for. His 1952 composition 4’33″, in which performers let four minutes and 33 seconds transpire without making a single sound, quickly became the font of Cage’s fame – and infamy.
Nonetheless, Cage continued to compose, perform and conduct a wildly varied repertoire: sometimes piano-driven, sometimes high concept pieces whose “scores” consisted of no written music, only performative instructions to musicians, or multimedia collaborations with performance and video artists like Nam June Paik.
There’s a lot more to John Cage than the absence of sound. And that’s the driving conviction behind Cage: Beyond Silence, a multi-sited celebration of the composer’s life, work and influence that will take place in Philadelphia from October 26 through January 20.
Designed to coincide with the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s boundary-free celebration of postmodernism, Dancing around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp, Beyond Silence will feature the work of an array of contemporary musicians: pianist and former Cage collaborator Margaret Leng Tan, contemporary chamber ensemble PRISM Quartet, and the Curtis Institute’s contemporary ensemble, Curtis 20/21.
Presented by Philadelphia-based arts nonprofit Bowerbird, Cage: Beyond Silence is an ambitiously plotted festival which aims to redefine and broaden the composer’s legacy. The fun kicks off on Friday with Margaret Leng Tan‘s performance of a wide-ranging selection of Cage’s piano compositions, grouped together somewhat cryptically as Music for Film, accompanied by projections of Cage’s visual art. The performance – like many in the festival – will take place at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.