100 years since the birth of J.C. (by Hethre)

No… not Jesus Christ…

I’m talking about the other J.C.—prophet of sound art, John Cage. This year has been a bash with centenary festivals everywhere you turn. The importance of this man to modern music and sound is undeniable. Cage’s voice still resonates from the past and continues to influence the work of composers, artists, and theoreticians today. Communities all over the world have their own unique ways of commemorating his legacy.

This Friday, September 7, The New School will honor Cage with a concert featuring members of the Sonic Arts Union. If J.C. was a prophet of sound, then you could say that these guys were sonic apostles. They incorporated Cage’s lessons and ideas into their own practices, and ultimately became major players in the sound art scene as well. Three quarters of this group, Robert Ashley, Alvin Lucier, and David Behrman, will be joined by Chris Mann for a performance that will blow your mind…

Really, take a look at the program notes that Lucier submitted for his piece:



enormously ampli[fi]ed brain waves and percussion

Music for Solo Performer was the first work in history to use brain waves for musical purposes. During a performance, a performer sits with electrodes affixed to his or her scalp. The signal from the electrodes is routed through at least sixteen audio amplifiers and loudspeakers deployed throughout the space. The speakers are directly coupled to percussion instruments, including tympani, drums, gongs, cymbals and found objects. During the performance one or more assistants channel the amplified alpha waves to loudspeakers and percussion instruments in various combinations.

Music for Solo Performer was first performed on May 5, 1965, at the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University. John Cage assisted in the performance.

The set-up alone for this event is a massive undertaking. James Fei, Associate Professor of Electronic Arts at Mills College in California, will oversee its technical completion.

The event is free and there are no tickets. It is simply first come, first seated. So get there early!

If you can’t make it out to this event, there are other ways to get down with my main man, J.C. This app has received the official seal of approval from James Briggs III, audio engineer to the stars. It simulates a prepared piano, an instrument popularized by none other than, you guessed it, John Cage.

Further Reading:

Ashley, Robert. “The Influence of John Cage.” (2011)

Cage, John. Silence. (1961)

Kirn, Peter. “John Cage at 100: A Celebration in Words, Listening, and Prepared Piano iPhones.” (2012)

Pritchett, James. The Music of John Cage. (1993)