Sound & Silence: John Cage Composing Himself

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EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University Library is joining the worldwide centennial celebration of John Cage with an exhibit that will draw from its Music Library’s collection -- one of the most important collections of the famous avant-garde American composer’s work.
 
The exhibit, “Sound & Silence: John Cage Composing Himself,” will open Sept. 5, the date that would have been the 100th birthday of one of the most influential and controversial figures of 20th-century music and art. Additional events scheduled for the fall include a lecture, concerts, a two-day symposium and more. (See below for centennial events.)
 
To introduce the new exhibit, the library will stage a lunchtime orchestral performance on Sept. 5 of one of Cage’s most widely known compositions “4’33.” The title stands for the four minutes and 33 seconds that performers are asked not to play their instruments.
The public is invited to bring an instrument, traditional or improvised, and participate in the orchestra. Those who don’t bring instruments are welcome, too. “We’ll be happy to supply you with one,” said exhibit co-curator Greg MacAyeal, assistant head of the Music Library. 
 
MacAyeal will lead the orchestra in a short warm-up and rehearsal at 12:15 p.m., before he conducts the performance at 12:30 p.m. 
The exhibit and performance will be held at Northwestern University Library, 1970 Campus Drive, on the Evanston campus. 
Northwestern’s Music Library holds one of the most important collections of Cage’s work. Because of its focus on 20th-century classical music, Cage made Northwestern’s Music Library the repository for two of his most important collections: his correspondence, an extensive body of personal and professional communications spanning more than 50 years and a collection of original music manuscripts by Cage and 273 other contemporary composers. Cage obtained the music manuscripts for his groundbreaking book “Notations.”
 
Co-curated by MacAyeal and Nina Barrett, the library’s communications specialist, “Sound & Silence” uses the collection to illustrate some of Cage’s major achievements and to highlight some of the less examined chapters in his life. It captures, for example, an early stint in Chicago when he was still developing what would become his unique philosophy of sound and a series of later visits he made to the Chicago area and the Northwestern campus for residencies and musical festivals. 
 
The exhibit also includes his score for “Music of Changes,” his first significant composition using the “I Ching” (Book of Changes), the ancient Chinese divinatory text. Also featured are original artifacts related to his soundtrack for the radio play “The City Wears a Slouch Hat,” produced for CBS as part of the same series that spawned Orson Welles’ infamous “War of the Worlds” and broadcast in Chicago’s WBBM studios. Other materials explore his relationships with contemporary musicians, artists and thinkers, including Marshall McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller, Yoko Ono and Merce Cunningham, the trailblazing dancer and choreographer who became Cage’s life partner and frequent collaborator. 
 
The exhibit also includes original audio and video commentary by Northwestern faculty members and others who worked directly with Cage, including former Music Library head Don Roberts, emeritus Northwestern music professors Frederick Hemke and Stephen Syverud, vocalist Barbara Froman Syverud, former music school dean Bernard Dobroski and composers Peter Gena and William Brooks.
 
The exhibit is free and open to the public 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays from Sept. 5 through Dec. 21. Members of the Northwestern community with a valid WildCARD can visit during all open library hours
For more information, contact Clare Roccaforte at c-roccaforte@northwestern.edu or (847) 467-5918.
 
Additional John Cage Centennial Events at Northwestern
All of the events are open to the public and will take place on the University’s Evanston campus. Ticket information follows each performance listing. Specific venues and single-ticket prices are listed below.
 
“Unlocking Cage” concert, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus. The Contemporary Music Ensemble performs a concert curated and hosted by Music Library head D.J. Hoek, featuring works by composers whose music influenced Cage, including Erik Satie, Anton Webern, Charles Ives and Edgard Varèse. Tickets are $6 for the general public and $4 for students. Northwestern faculty and staff with a valid WildCARD will receive 15 percent off the general admission price. Tickets can be purchased through the Pick-Staiger Box Office at (847) 467-4000 or online at www.pickstaiger.org
 
Kenneth Silverman on John Cage, lecture, 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, Hardin Hall, Rebecca Crown Center, 633 Clark St., Evanston campus. Kenneth Silverman, the author of the highly acclaimed Cage biography “Begin Again,” recently published in paperback by Northwestern University Press, gives a Cage-related talk. Sponsored by the Northwestern University Library Board of Governors, the lecture is free and open to the public. 
 
John Cage Festival, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 15, Lutkin Hall, 700 University Place, Evanston campus. A festival hosted by the Bienen School of Music and the Northwestern University Institute for New Music kicks off with a concert featuring Stephen Drury performing Cage’s prepared piano music. Drury is among the foremost interpreters of Cage’s music as both a pianist and a conductor. Tickets are $8 for the general public and $5 for students. Northwestern faculty and staff with a valid WildCARD will receive 15 percent off the general admission price. Tickets can be purchased through the Pick-Staiger Box Office at (847) 467-4000 or online at www.pickstaiger.org. 
 
“Interpreting Cage,” symposium, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, Lutkin Hall, 700 University Place, Evanston campus. “Interpreting Cage,” a two-day symposium, begins on Friday with sessions on performing Cage’s music and the lasting influence of Cage’s music. Featured speakers include Cage scholars David Nicholls, Seth Brodsky and Julia Robinson; Stephen Drury, Jason Treuting of So Percussion; and a panel of composers discussing Cage’s influence. No registration required. 
 
Concert, 5:15 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, lobby, Deering Library, 1935 Sheridan Road, Evanston campus. A concert in the newly renovated lobby of Deering Library by So Percussion highlights works from the John Cage Notations collection. Performers include guitarist Grey Mcmurray and percussionists from the Bienen School of Music. This event is free and open to the public.
 
“Interpreting Cage,” 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 17, Lutkin Hall, 700 University Place, Evanston campus. “Interpreting Cage,” a two-day symposium, concludes on Saturday with symposium sessions featuring Cage scholars Charles Junkerman and Rob Haskins. Music Library head D.J. Hoek discusses Northwestern’s John Cage collection. This event is free and open to the public.
 
Tour of Cage exhibit, 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, University Library, 1970 Campus Drive, Evanston campus. Tour will be guided by co-curators Greg MacAyeal and Nina Barrett. This event is free and open to the public.

Concert, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus. The final festival concert will feature So Percussion, Bienen School of Music percussionists and guitarist Grey Mcmurray, as well as Cenk Ergün and Loud Objects. Tickets are $10 for the general public and $6 for students. Northwestern faculty and staff with a valid WildCARD will receive 15 percent off the general admission price. Tickets can be purchased through the Pick-Staiger Box Office at (847) 467-4000 or online at www.pickstaiger.org.