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100 Not-Songs for JOHN CAGE (collaborative version, 2014-2017)

a collaboration for voice, video and sound projection 

Duration: variable, ca. 25-50’

Premiere: International Contemporary Ensemble, May 2017

Tony Arnold, soprano; Ross Karre, video; Fredrick Gifford, electronics

100 Not-Songs for JOHN CAGE is a collaborative work that challenges conventions of performance, the integration of music and video, and the productive involvement of the audience.

For the occasion of John Cage’s centenary, I wrote 100 short pieces that could be performed in whole or part, in many possible orders, for soprano Tony Arnold. These explore a wide range of vocal styles based on texts by thinkers associated with Cage. Wishing to extend this material into an evening-length work integrating live performance, field-recordings and video, the two sought the collaboration of video artist, Ross Karre. The close interaction between the three is one of 100 Not-Songs’ most significant aspects - each has a long relationship with Cage's work and notable careers in contemporary music interpretation and multimedia design.

We grounded our work in Cage's own score for “A Dip in the Lake”, a piece superimposed upon the map of Chicago itself (access to study this work was kindly granted by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago). Using chance methods, we extracted 100 locations from Cage's score and charted our own journey to each point to film Gifford's songs. Locations include parking garages, beaches, cheese shops, and dozens of environments throughout the city; each time recording audio and video of a performance and ancillary imagery and sounds specific to the precise zones. Even during the filming stage, the community and its environment is a protagonist in this work.

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