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john cage: variations VII, 1966

john cage: variations VII, 1966

The Bass Museum of Art is celebrating the centennial of John Cage’s birth with an exhibition of his performance Variations VII, 1966, on DVD. Cage, who was born on September 5, 1912, popularized the use of chance and indeterminate elements in music,visual arts and dance. Along with institutions across the globe, the Bass Museum’s presentation will honor Cage’s immeasurable legacy on contemporary art.

Working in several formats, Cage popularized a style based on his interests in chance, experimental music and Eastern philosophy. He is perhaps best known for his piano composition 4’33” in which the performer remains silent for the entire length of the performance, allowing the ambient background noises to become part of the performance itself.

Variations VII is a performance that aptly illustrates Cage’s reliance on chance and indeterminate actions in a musical performance. Taking place in 1966 as a part of 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering in New York City, Cage’s performance featured live noise from distinct locations around the city via telephone as well as sounds from household appliances and other similar objects. Cage’s performance also utilizes specialized electronic equipment that triggers noises based on the real-time movements of performers and members of the audience.

Variations VII will be on view at the Bass Museum of Art from August 22 to October 28, 2012. The Bass Museum will be celebrating Cage’s centennial throughout the year with various events.

– Curated by Bryan Granger, Knight Curatorial Fellow (2012-2013)

Image caption: Performance view of Variations VII, 1966. Photo © Robert R. McElroy