John Cage - Indeterminacy in Performance

Fontana Mix 03

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Stories and musical works

60 one-minute stories by the pioneering composer are performed simultaneously and randomly alongside several of his musical works. Originally a lecture delivered in 1959, Indeterminacy offers a quick-fire, subverted narrative immersed in uncertainty. Performed by Loré Lixenberg, Robert Worby and Andrew McGregor.

Indeterminacy - New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music comprises a series of 60 stories: some of which Cage wrote himself, some are Zen stories and some he collected from friends and colleagues. Each is of a different length but each is to be read in exactly one minute. There are reoccurring themes: mushrooms and the mushroom expert Guy Nearing, Arnold Schoenberg, anecdotes about Cage’s parents and his childhood as well as stories about his friends and occasional reminiscences about bizarre situations or odd coincidences. 

As these stories are read, each within their one minute time frame, musical works by Cage are performed simultaneously. There is absolutely no attempt whatsoever to synchronize any activities. The reader and musicians do not coordinate. One thing does not lead to another; one thing simply follows another. For Cage, happenstance and simultaneity were paramount; certainly far more important than any notion of harmony. Here, Cage’s narratives are immersed in a sound world carved out of music theatre, live electronics and extended vocal techniques the elements of which are pushed along by rigorous chance operations. This creates uncertainty, coincidence and an auspicious synergy that can never be repeated.

Cage’s works in this performance shall include: Aria, Fontana Mix, Cartridge Music, Variations I, Solo(s) for Voice and Radio Music.

Part of a Season of Sound, celebrating the Library’s sound archive. Audio installation supplied by Bowers & Wilkins.

Image: Fontana Mix 03


Name: John Cage - Indeterminacy in Performance
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Price: Full Price: £12.00
Member: £8.00
Senior 60+: £10.00
Student: £8.00
Registered Unemployed: £8.00
Under 18: £8.00
Friend of the British Library: £8.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546