John Cage transformed the landscape of 20th century music. This autumn BBC Radio 3 will pay tribute to the man who is well known for having written a silent piece (4’33’’); for making music by playing a cactus; placing nuts, bolts, screws and rubbers into a piano and writing pieces which do not require traditional instruments.
Celebrating one of the great avant-garde composers, BBC Radio 3’s Cage Centenary Week will take place across a range of programmes, including Music Matters, Hear and Now, Sunday Feature and Late Junction, featuring interviews with high profile artists reflecting on his legacy.
Contributors include John Adams, Antony Gormley, Ilan Volkov and Aphex Twin.
• Music Matters: Saturday 15 September
Tom Service examines how Cage’s music developed throughout his life.
• Hear and Now: Saturday 15 and 22 September
Conductor Ivan Volkov leads the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in performances of Cage’s works including The Concerto for Prepared Piano.
• Sunday Feature: Sunday 16 September
Richard Bernas looks at Cage’s influence in disciplines beyond music with guests including Angel of the North sculptor, Antony Gormley.
• Late Junction: Tuesday 18th – Thursday 20th September
Anne Hilde Neset explores the world of John Cage through his music and writings, and the work of those he inspired. Highlights include Aphex Twin’s take on the prepared piano.
• How To Prepare a Piano – Saturday 22 September
Pianist and comedian Rainer Hersch learns first-hand how to prepare a piano and composes his own work for the instrument.
In Music Matters, Tom Service and writer Mark Swed examine how Cage’s music and ideas developed throughout his life. With archive recordings of Cage and contributions from those who knew the composer, including John Adams, Christian Wolff and Pauline Oliveros. Tom asks whether Cage’s practice could ultimately be considered composition, or whether by the end of his life he had crossed into the realms of philosophy and conceptual art.
Robert Worby presents two special editions of Hear and Now. On Saturday 15 September the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, led by Cage champion Ilan Volkov, perform Cage’s works including the Concerto for Prepared Piano (a traditional piano which is altered by objects such as bolts, nuts and screws which are placed between or on the Piano’s strings or hammers) with soloist John Tilbury.
There is also Improvisation III for tapes, a piece in which Cage overcame his aversion to improvised music by employing mechanical instruments. Philip Thomas and Lore Lixenberg perform She Is Asleep, an early Cage work for Voice, Prepared Piano and Percussion. On Saturday 22 September, Ilan Volkov and the Iceland Symphony Orchestra give a rare performance of John Cage’s Music for Thirteen, composed in 1989.
In Sunday Feature, Richard Bernas is joined by guests from the arts world to examine Cage’s extensive influence in disciplines beyond music. Contributors include sculptor and creator of the Angel of the North Antony Gormley, visual artist and Turner Prize nominee Tacita Dean and electronic and experimental hip-hop writer DJ Spooky. There is a mix of music and archive recordings of interviews and lectures given by Cage himself.
Anne Hilde Neset presents three dedicated programmes exploring the sound world of Cage with music and archive interviews. They address Cage’s pioneering electronic works from Imaginary Landscape No.1, one of the first examples of electroacoustic music, to Williams Mix, which uses the cutting and splicing of tapes, to text pieces such as his 1959 work with David Tudor, Indeterminacy. Other highlights include a hearing of Aphex Twin’s personal take on the prepared piano and a special recording of Musicircus, staged at London’s ENO, in which a wide range of artists performed a number of different Cage works simultaneously, creating a unique sound-walk for the listener.
On 22 September the inimitable pianist and comedian Rainer Hersch learns first-hand how to prepare a piano. Cage first prepared a piano in 1940 when he was commissioned to write the dance work, Bacchanale and once commented that he was excited by the possibility of “placing in the hands of a single pianist the equivalent of an entire percussion orchestra”. He went on to compose more than 30 pieces using a variety of items. In this humorous programme, Rainer composes his own piece for the prepared piano using a manual written by Richard Bunger Evans, a close associate of Cage.
Roger Wright, Controller of BBC Radio 3 and Director of the BBC Proms says: “John Cage’s contribution to the world of arts, music and culture continues to show no bounds. As the home of classical music and cultural programming, BBC Radio 3 will offer listeners new and old an exploration of Cage’s language with a week of special programming in Late Junction, Music Matters, Sunday Feature and Hear and Now. Cage’s unique and inspirational ideas have a universal language which is very much alive today and we look forward to celebrating his life and work with our listeners this autumn.”
Notes to Editors
BBC Radio 3 is the home of classical music. The station also broadcasts a wide range of cultural programming including jazz, world music, arts and over 30 new drama programmes a year. BBC Radio 3 features more live classical music programming than any other and is the home of the BBC Proms, broadcasting every Prom live and over 600 complete concerts a year. The station is also the largest commissioner of new musical works in the country and is committed to supporting new talent; composers, writers and new young performers through schemes such as World Routes Academy, New Generation Artists and New Generation Thinkers.
Cage’s unique and inspirational ideas have a universal language which is very much alive today and we look forward to celebrating his life and work with our listeners this autumn.”