Monday 1 March 2010

Lecture Six: Events

While teaching at Black Mountain College, a home from home for European modernist art and design in 1940s America, the composer John Cage caused uproar by suggesting that musical compositions should be organized according to principles of duration rather than harmony. Music, in his view, was now a multimedia practice. Anything could now be part of a performance. The development of Cage’s graphic scores as maps of events eventually questioned the role of text itself: they also represented a confluence of modernist thinking on performance that embraced Futurism, the Bauhaus, Le Corbusier’s theories on architecture and Varese’s speculations on the relationship between the creative process and twentieth-century technology. As music and image processing software increasingly permits us to manipulate sound and vision as plastic entities, the relationship between the graphic score and the data stream is due for serious reassessment.

Context themes covered: time, spectacle, language, panoptics, psychology

Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art, Edited by Vincent Katz, 2002
M: Writings 67-72, John Cage, Calder & Boyars, 1973
Sol Lewitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art (online version)
Greenwich Village 1963: Avant-Garde Performance and the Effervescent Body, Sally Banes, Duke University Press, 1993 (online version)
Futurist Performance: Theory and Practice in the Drama, Scenography, Acting, Costume, Film and Music of the Italian Futurists, Michael Kirby, Dutton, 1971

See also:
In Memoriam Merce Cunningham

YouTube videos embedded above: ‘Ballet Mechanique’, George Antheil and Ferdinan Leger; ‘Poème électronique’, Edgard Varèse, Le Corbusier and Xenakis; ‘Water Walk’, John Cage

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