Networked_Music_Review

Live Stage: Variations VII by John Cage [us Boston]

var7.jpg[Image from Variations VII: FishNet commissioned by Turbulence.org] Variations VII by John Cage with Mobius Artists Group (MAG) members Margaret Bellafiore, Lewis Gesner, Larry Johnson, Tom Plsek, and Alisia Waller; and guest artists Joshua Jade, Forrest Larson, David Miller, and Landon Rose :: April 18-19, 2008; 8 – 9:30 pm :: Mobius, 725 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA.

Variations VII is the most recent installment in the Mobius Artists Group’s exploration of John Cage’s eight compositions, titled Variations. Beginning in 1996 with Variations I, in a version for two voices performed by David Miller and Larry Johnson, MAG members and guest artists have studied and performed this series in chronological order. This multiyear project was initiated and is coordinated by David Miller, but each of the projects is essentially collaborative in nature. Working through these radically open-ended compositions, among the most indeterminate of all Cage’s works, has provided the collaborators with an action-research form of insight into one key aspect of Cage’s development.

More important, however, the Mobius realizations of the Variations are aimed at unearthing the potential that these classic “avant-garde” works of the mid-twentieth century have for audiences and artists of our own time. This is especially true for the later works in the series, as they are rarely performed. The first Mobius Artists Group performance of Variations VII, given in March 2007, was the first realization of this work since its original performances in 1966, when it was presented by Experiments in Art and Technology as part of Nine Evenings: Theatre and Engineering.

The Mobius collaborators’ experience in preparing the 2007 performance laid the groundwork for the more fully developed version to be presented this April, including the addition of new team members Alisia Waller and Joshua Jade. The final work in the series, Variations VIII, is projected for performance in 2008-09.

BACKGROUND ON JOHN CAGE’S VARIATIONS VII: In 1966, John Cage and a set of prominent collaborators, including Billy Klüver of Bell Laboratories and David Tudor, presented Variations VII, as part of the series 9 Evenings: Art and Engineering. Performed at the immense New York City Armory under the auspices of Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.), Variations VII was an experiment in making audible the inaudible and transforming the results via live electronic sound processing. By the “inaudible” was meant sounds from the world beyond the Armory space (for example, a restaurant kitchen, the zoo), sounds available in the space itself but generally inaccessible (sounds of the body), and sounds produced by the transformation of non-aural data (particularly via a Geiger counter).

The team of composers working with Cage and Klüver used the metaphor of “fishing” to create a rich and dense soundscape, originating entirely with real-time sources unintended for performance. The Mobius team is developing a 21st-century presentation of Variations VII which, while taking into account what was done in 1966, aims at something different from a reproduction of the original. The sonic “fishing” activities will use a variety of means, from Web-scanning to processes which use no electronic technology. The group will also be fishing in another dimension, with real-time development of projected visual imagery using found material. Finally, the fishing will take place in a set of simultaneous, widening circles, from the performance space itself, to the surrounding neighborhood, remote physical spaces, and the global Web. See Variations VII: FishNet.

About Mobius: Mobius, founded by Marilyn Arsem in 1977, is known for incorporating a wide range of the visual, performing, and media arts into innovative live performance, video, installation and intermedia works. Mobius has produced hundreds of original works that have attained critical acclaim in Boston, nationally and internationally. Works created at Mobius have been presented throughout the North and South America, Europe and Asia.

Mobius has long been committed to creating artist exchange projects bringing artists from different geographic regions to work together. The international exchange projects with artists from Macedonia, Croatia, Poland, and Taiwan have focused on site-specific and publicly-sited work. Mobius has presented work involving thousands of artists over its 30-year history and is recognized as one of the seminal alternative, artist-run organizations in the U.S.

Mobius, Inc is funded by the Tanne Foundation; the Nonsequitur Foundation; the Boston Redevelopment Authority; the LEF Foundation; the Boston Cultural Council, a program of the Mayor’s office on Arts, Tourism, & Special Events; the Foundation for Contemporary Arts; the Oedipus Foundation; and generous private support.


Apr 16, 2008
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Networked_Music_Review (NMR) is a research blog that focuses on emerging networked musical explorations.

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