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John Cage

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August 1, 2009 | MARK SWED, MUSIC CRITIC
The tributes to choreographer Merce Cunningham, who died in New York at 90 Sunday evening, have been pouring in, and they are glorious. I think we have consensus on the fact that Cunningham revolutionized modern dance and that he was the great living choreographer. That the world recognizes the genius, originality and importance of a beloved artist means a lot to us Merceophiles. Still, coming to Cunningham from music, I have been struck by how little has been said about Cunningham's relationship to my art form, and by a certain grudging credit accorded Cunningham's collaborator and greatest artistic influence, his companion and the music director of his company, John Cage.
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December 12, 2013 | By Mark Swed, Music Critic
Ask John Cage in 1956, as the sculptor Richard Lippold did, to make a film and you take your chances.  The composer was adamantly, and with increasing daring, using elaborate chance processes to create all his work. Still, Lippold, who was a close friend and neighbor of Cage, thought the composer would be just the person to edit a mass of footage shot during the three-year process of his making “The Sun,” a huge, geometric sculpture involving more than two miles of pure gold wire and now hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
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September 2, 2012
What would have been John Cage's 100th birthday on Wednesday is being celebrated around the globe throughout the year. Here's a selective listing: Full story | Timeline | Music | Inspiration | Critic's Notebook West Coast John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures, Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, Sept. 4-Dec. 16 Happy Birthday: A Celebration of Chance and Listening, Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland, Ore., Sept. 5-Nov. 17 Cage 100 Festival in Santa Monica, Jacaranda, various locations, Sept.
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October 16, 2013 | By Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic
"Lecture on Nothing," which is published in John Cage's "Silence," is a classic, studied and often recited. One of its much-quoted lines is "I have nothing to say and I am saying and that is poetry as I need it. " The conductor Robert Spano read the lecture at the 2006 Ojai Festival, as the director Peter Sellars once did at the Salzburg Festival, slowly savoring every instant. But what Cage called a composed lecture didn't always go down so easily. The composer first delivered the 40-minute lecture - which is structured like a piece of music, with pauses and repetitions - at the painter Robert Motherwell's 8th St. Artist's Club in Manhattan in 1950.
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September 5, 2012 | By David Ng
What Jean-Luc Godard is to film and Marcel Duchamp was to the visual arts, John Cage was to music -- a radical experimentalist who constantly sought to reinvent the art form. Boldly conceptual -- and to many, frustratingly impenetrable -- his pieces stand among the most important works of music created in the 20th century. Cage was born 100 years ago Wednesday in Los Angeles. His father, John, was an inventor, and his mother, Lucretia, held an editing job at the Los Angeles Times.
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September 11, 2012 | By Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic
When it comes to Erik Satie's "Vexations," I have thus far been a grazer. On the several opportunities I have had to experience a performance of the work, which entails repeating the same page of mystically unstable music 840 times, a 24-hour proposition give or take a couple of hours depending upon tempo choices, I have always (perhaps conveniently) had obligations keeping me from a full performance of it. That was the case again for a performance in Santa Monica that began Friday night at 7 and concluded Saturday at 6:56 p.m. Thirty-two pianists were employed, each occupying the piano bench for about 45 minutes.
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September 3, 2012 | By Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic
BOCHUM, Germany - Of all the worldwide celebrants for the 100th anniversary of John Cage's birth on Wednesday, the Germans seem to be the most adamant. Berliners are even complaining of already being "Caged-out," there having been so much of the revolutionary American composer's music in the capital this year. And lots more is on the way with this month's Berlin Festival. That's nothing new. Unlike in the United States, where most of our big arts institutions shy away from the slightest challenge, the Germans like nothing better than an artist with big ideas or bold ideas; they first began taking Cage's radical approach to sound and silence seriously - very seriously - more than a half-century ago. The most extensive Cage festival ever was a monthlong series of daily concerts mounted 20 years ago in Frankfurt to celebrate the composer's 80th birthday (although Cage had died a few days before, having just finished new pieces for the event)
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September 2, 2012 | By Scott Timberg, Special to the Los Angeles Times
John Cage's ideas have long inspired artists inside and outside the experimental music subculture. Besides new-music figures considered disciples or associates - Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, Morton Feldman and David Tudor, for example - he had an effect on the most famous rock band of all time: Paul McCartney became interested in Cage in 1966, and the chaotic orchestration of the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" is thought to have derived from Cage's ideas,...
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September 5, 1993 | BARBARA ISENBERG, Barbara Isenberg is a Times staff writer.
Composer John Cage, who died last year just before his 80th birthday, was born and grew up in Los Angeles. The "grandfather of the avant garde" went to his first opera, "Aida," while still in high school, and he attended Pomona College before dropping out to head for Europe. In 1987, on the occasion of Cage's 75th birthday, the writer went to New York to talk with the artist about his life and times.
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November 14, 2012 | By David Ng
Renowned choreographer Mark Morris will bring his signature modern sensibility to the Ojai Music Festival in June with a program that will feature pieces by Lou Harrison, John Cage and Henry Cowell. Organizers said Wednesday the Mark Morris Dance Group will perform at the annual festival along with the jazz ensemble the Bad Plus, pianist Ethan Iverson, the American String Quartet and pianist-organist Colin Fowler. The 2013 Ojai Music Festival is scheduled to take place June 6-9. As previously announced, Morris will serve as the festival's music director, a guest position that has been held in recent years by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and singer Dawn Upshaw.
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June 11, 2013 | By Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic
- Reputed to court mavericks, the Ojai Music Festival doesn't always extend a very large welcome mat. But this offbeat weekend, the mat was massive.Attention was drawn to supposedly kooky and bizarrely neglected West Coast composers who happen to be essential contributors to American music and our national identity. It was choreographer Mark Morris' festival - Ojai's first music director from the dance world - and it was a mess, a gloriously revelatory and ingratiating mess at its best.
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June 6, 2013 | By Mark Swed, Music Critic
Lou Harrison, the quintessential California composer -- vastly eclectic, Pacific-Rim-prescient, prolific maverick, visionary, seeker or pleasure and profundity -- liked to describe his musical interests by saying he spread his toys over a wide acreage. The 67th annual Ojai Festival, which runs Thursday through Sunday, focuses on Harrison (who died in 2003) and his world thanks to the efforts of choreographer Mark Morris, long a Harrison champion and this year's unusual choice for music director.
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April 29, 2013 | By Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic
Jacaranda, the Santa Monica new music series, began its current season in September with a significant contribution to the local ad hoc celebrations of the 100th anniversary of John Cage's birth that month. It is now ending the season with a significant contribution to "Britten 100/LA," the citywide festival celebrating the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten's birth later this year. These are not obvious bookends. There is little to connect the composers - one a leader of the American avant-garde, the other the first British composer to accept a life peerage - who had no regard for each other, musically or otherwise.
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April 24, 2013 | By Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic
An authority on Euripides, Christian Wolff is a retired professor of Greek and Latin classics (along with Marxist literature), having taught at Harvard and Dartmouth for many years. He is also one of America's most unpredictable, most venturesome, most radical (politically and compositionally), most inventive, most satisfying (intellectually, aesthetically and musically) and, at 79, least recognized (at least by America's musical establishment) living composers. In addition to all that, he happens to be the last living musical link to the New York School of composers and artists who gathered around John Cage in the 1950s.
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February 25, 2013 | By Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic
Southwest Chamber Music's 2013 L.A. International New Music Festival, in progress at the Colburn School's Zipper Concert Hall, is doing its attentive bit to broaden international musical relations. We hear too little music from Mexican, Korean or even Venezuelan composers. America and Germany lost its two greatest senior composers - Elliott Carter and Hans Werner Henze - late last year, but they have been long lost on the West Coast, where they remain ignored. Thankfully in such matters, Southwest can serve as an indispensable diplomat.
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February 18, 2013 | By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic
Yoko Ono gets a bad rap. She's the one who broke up the Beatles, who pushed John Lennon into baking bread. Except, of course, it's much more complicated than that. Ono was already an established avant-gardist when she met Lennon, famously, at London's Indica Gallery in 1966; inspired by John Cage , she worked with the Fluxus group in New York in the early 1960s and collaborated with experimental composer La Monte Young . Among her work from this period is “Cut Piece,” a participatory bit of performance art in which Ono came on stage in a loose shift and encouraged audience members to cut the garment off her piece by piece.
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September 7, 2012 | By Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic
Wednesday was the 100th anniversary of John Cage's birth, and the world celebrated in ways large and small. The New Yorker magazine declared the 20th century "the John Cage century. " Washington, D.C., got into full Cagean swing with an eight-day festival. New York took notice. So did Berlin, Vienna, Paris and London. Los Angeles was somewhat less stirred about its homeboy who revolutionized the way we hear music and approach art. Wednesday, the music department of Pomona College, Cage's alma mater, cut a cake.
BOOKS
April 30, 1989
The poem above, reprinted in its entirety, appears in Pearl, Spring/Summer 1989. 1989, Gerald Locklin. Reprinted by permission of Pearl magazine, 3030 East 2nd St., Long Beach, CA 90803.
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February 15, 2013 | By Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times Music Critic
On the last page of an expensively printed and eloquently annotated program book for a groundbreaking John Cage festival last weekend by Miami's New World Symphony was a quote from the president of the Knight Foundation, the festival's largest sponsor. "The first time I heard John Cage's music," Alberto Ibargüen wrote, "I realized anything was possible. " Maybe so, beginning with the surprise of finding such a remarkable statement about music from the president of a major foundation.
ENTERTAINMENT
November 14, 2012 | By David Ng
Renowned choreographer Mark Morris will bring his signature modern sensibility to the Ojai Music Festival in June with a program that will feature pieces by Lou Harrison, John Cage and Henry Cowell. Organizers said Wednesday the Mark Morris Dance Group will perform at the annual festival along with the jazz ensemble the Bad Plus, pianist Ethan Iverson, the American String Quartet and pianist-organist Colin Fowler. The 2013 Ojai Music Festival is scheduled to take place June 6-9. As previously announced, Morris will serve as the festival's music director, a guest position that has been held in recent years by pianist Leif Ove Andsnes and singer Dawn Upshaw.
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