Variations V – Cage Edition 48

Variations V – Cage Edition 48

John Cage

Label: Mode Records
Format: DVD movie
Barcode: 0764593025894
Catalog number: MODEDVD 258
Releasedate: 07-04-17

- A complete stereo recording of the Paris 1966 performance of Variations V (PCM audio, no video, 40 minutes).

- Cunningham Dance Company’s archivist David Vaughan interviews some of the dancers from the original production — Carolyn Brown (40 minutes), and Sandra Neels with Gus Solomons Jr. (30 minutes) — about the production, working with Cage and Cunningham, and touring in the 1960s.

- 12-page book with essays by Rob Haskins and Gordon Mumma plus archival photos
Variations V reflects the experimentation and spirit of the 1960s — a collaborative, interactive multi-media event with choreographed dance, elaborate mobile decor, variable lighting, multiple film projection, and live-electronic music often activated by the dancers’ movements.

Filmed in 1966 at the NDR television studio in Hamburg, Germany, it is historically important as one of the few available films of a Cunningham Dance Company performance from the 1960s and the first commercial release of Variations V.

As the dancers performed on stage, their movements interacted with twelve antennas built by Robert Moog and a set of photocells designed by Bell Labs research scientist Billy Klüver in such a way as to trigger the transmission of sounds to a 50-channel mixer whose output was heard from six speakers around the hall. The actual sound sources—a battery of tape recorders and radios—were supervised by Cage, David Tudor and Gordon Mumma. The mise-en-scène was supplemented by a film collage by Stan VanDerBeek that included processed television images by Nam June Paik and footage of the dancers shot by VanDerBeek during rehearsals.

157 minutes of video and music.
John Cage (1912-1992) was a singularly inventive and much beloved American composer, writer, philosopher, and visual artist, whose influence, already profound, has yet to be fully felt. Beginning around 1950, and throughout the passing years, he departed from the pragmatism of precise musical notation and circumscribed ways of performance. His principal contribution to the history of music is his systematic establishment of the principle of indeterminacy: by adapting Zen Buddhist practices to composition and performance, Cage succeeded in bringing both authentic spiritual ideas and a liberating attitude of play to the enterprise of Western art. His aesthetic of chance produced a unique body of what might be called "once-only" works, any two performances of which can never be quite the same. In an effort to reduce the subjective element in composition, he developed methods of selecting the components of his pieces by chance, early on through the tossing of coins or dice and later through the use of random number generators on the computer, and especially IC(1984), designed and written in the C language by Cage's then programmer-assistant, Andrew Culver, to simulate the coin oracle of the I Ching. Cage's use of the computer was less creative than constructive, and resulted in a system of what can easily be seen as total serialism, in which all elements pertaining to pitch, noise, duration, relative loudness, tempi, harmony, etc., could be determined by referring to previously drawn correlated charts. Thus, Cage's mature works did not originate in psychology, motive, drama, or literature, but, rather, were just sounds, free of judgments about whether they are musical or not, free of fixed relations, free of memory and taste. His most enduring, indeed notorious, composition, influenced by Robert Rauschenberg's all-black and all-white paintings, is the radically tacet 4'33" (1952). Encouraging the ultimate freedom in musical expression, the three movements of 4'33" are indicated by the pianist's closing and reopening of the piano key cover, during which no sounds are intentionally produced. It was first performed by the gifted pianist and Cage's long-time associate, David Tudor, in Woodstock, N.Y., on Aug. 29, 1952. A decade later Cage would create a second "silent" piece, 0'00", "to be played in any way by anyone," presented for the first time in Tokyo on Oct. 24, 1962.