Skip links

Program 686: John Cage

KALW Broadcast Date: February 20, 2022 | Host: Mark Abramson

In this program, we feature two very long works by one of the spiritual fathers of modern experimental music, John Cage (1912-1992). Cage’s musical evolution is really fascinating to learn about, and his work strikes me as a classic example of out-of-the-box thinking. Tonight’s program begins with a composition from 1963 called Variations IV. We’ll listen to both sides of the vinyl record that contains volume 2 of the over 6 hours of recordings from this site specific work, executed by Cage and his collaborator David Tudor, in an art gallery in Los Angeles. According to the John Cage website, the form of work is determined by dropping circles and points on a map of the gallery, creating a graphic representation of where sounds may occur. We next feature a 70-minute recording of Cage’s Electronic Music for Piano (1964), made in 2018 by Tania Chen, with collaborators Thurston Moore, John Leidecker, and David Toop. This is an extreme interpretation of Cage’s bare outline of a score, with huge jumps in volume and many long passages of complete silence, some up to 3 minutes long. Of course, the drama of the volume shifts and the suspense of the silences are part of what makes this such an interesting work. Be prepared. We’ll hear two other short pieces. One is an organized sound piece from 1954 titled Williams Mix, and last, I’ve thrown in an excerpt from a lecture Cage gave at the LA County Museum of Art in 1965 where he describes how he came to be a composer, rather than some other kind of artist.

Program Audio

30-Second Spot

Track Info & Links

Title: Variations IV (1963)
Composer: John Cage
Performers: John Cage and David Tudor
Recording Title: Variations IV, volume 2 (1965)
Record Label: Everest
Catalog Number: 3230


Title: Electronic Music for Piano (1964)
Composers: John Cage
Performers: Tania Chen – piano; Thurston Moore – electric guitar; John Leidecker – computer and electronics; David Toop – effects, electronics, instruments, noises
Recording Title: Electronic Music for Piano (2018)
Record Label: Omnivore Recordings
Catalog Number: OVCD-262


Title: John Cage lecture excerpt
Composer: John Cage
Performers: John Cage
Recording Title: John Cage Lecture Reading: on Rauschenberg, Duchamp, Johns etc. at L.A. County Museum of Art (1965)
Record Label: Other Minds Archives
Catalog Number: n/a


Title: Williams Mix (1952)
Composer: John Cage
Performers: John Cage, Earle Brown, Louis and Bebe Barron, David Tudor, Ben Johnston, and others
Recording Title: Fontana Mix (2010)
Record Label: él Records
Catalog Number: ACMEM194CD

Close Search

Start typing and press Enter to search