Thursday, 4 October 2012

Cage Open

  To Cafe Oto in Dalston last week for an evening of compositions for electronics, tapes and radios by John Cage, performed by the ensemble Langham Research Centre. A wonderfully blurry tension between aleatory and structural elements permeated the music, bleeding in the Music for Five Radios into a caustic soundclash of contemporary antinomies: celebrity gossip against catastrophising headlines, grime and bashment against classical and MOR, banal jingle against dissonant interference.
   The performance was part of a series of events for Cage's centennial and showed how colossally ahead of his time he was. Equally, in LRC's hands, his work has never sounded more contemporary, with the open-ended, chance-determined nature of the scores meaning that each performance is unique and of its moment. For example, the version of Fontana Mix I'd previously heard made it seem like a precursor of musique concrete, whereas LRC's looser interpretation added a female vocalist improvising a kind of tongue-in-cheek sprechstimme as she wandered through the audience to disconcerting effect.
   Here's Cage himself, wryly playing with his own image as an 'experimental composer':

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