The above video captures the John Cage Musicircus that preceded last night's performance. The Musicircus basically calls for performers of varying stripes to do their thing — all at the same time. Among the elements: a children's string ensemble, a brass quintet, a saxophone trio, Chinese lion dancers and drummers, jugglers, unicyclists, vibraphonists, an electric violinist, a guitarist and lots of free form dancers. Think of it as a highbrow Bonnaroo. Thanks to Tony Youngblood for the video.
If you're kicking yourself for missing last night's centennial celebration of John Cage at Blair School of Music, continue kicking. Ingram Hall was packed to capacity for what turned out to be one of the best arts events I've seen here in years. Blair, Vortex Percussion Ensemble, especially artistic director Michael Holland, deserve a big hats off, as do all of the other performers involved.
The event featured fabulous photographs, interviews and clips projected on a large screen that helped provide context for the performances, and essentially provided a tutorial for those lacking knowledge about the legendary avant-garde composer. (I would qualify as one of those people, and I walked away from the event thirsty to learn a lot more about Cage.)
The first half included a fabulous dance piece set to Cage's "Fads and Fancies in the Academy," featuring local dance troupe Company Rose. Their performance might best be described as a comic mini-ballet, as dancers alternated between movements of athletic grace and clownish parody, and I've rarely heard so much laughter during a dance performance. If last night's Company Rose performance is any indication, fans of modern dance would be well-advised to check out their performances May 3 and 4 at the Neuhoff Complex.
Another first-half highlight: A 1960 clip of Cage performing "Water Walk" — a piece for water pitcher, iron pipe, goose call, bathtub, rubber duckie, five radios and grand piano — on the TV show I've Got a Secret, immediately followed by a live performance of the piece.
The second half of the show spotlighted Cage's collaboration with Merce Cunningham, and featured former dancers from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company accompanied by musicians from Vortex. Attempting to describe music and dance performances is challenging enough, but describing Cage's work seems almost heretical, considering his ardent belief that music (and other art forms) should be experienced exactly as they are, with no attempt to understand, interpret or intellectualize. Suffice to say, the five MCDC dancers were spectacular, as were the musical accompanists.
Mark your calendars for 2112 for the Cage bicentennial celebration! See ya there!