The Complete John Cage Variations Project
To celebrate the centenary of John Cage's birth in 2012, Decibel undertook the preparation of The Complete John Cage Variations Project, a year-long undertaking involving the automation and digitisation of scores, a recording and performances of the complete Variations I – VIII.
These works reflect the most productive ten years of John Cage’s compositional life from 1958 to 1976 and show the evolution of aleatoric, multimedia and spatial approaches to music. Decibel perform the 8 variations in their entirety and use their skills in electronic manipulation, performance and innovative digital scoring to present these works using contemporary possibilities.
Traditional musical instruments and period electronics will be used alongside, projections, photocells, Arduino, dancers and DIY circuitry to present this incredible collection of works. Rare composers notes and missing parts have been sourced by the group from the John Cage Trust, New York Public Library and the Langlois Foundation.
Together with the recording, Decibel have been working with Peter’s Edition in the preparation of a Variations App, so the work with the scores may be disseminated more widely.
Image credit: Rob Bogaerts / Anefo
09 Dec 2016 – Tokyo Wondersite, Tokyo, Japan.
06 Dec 2013 – ExAsilo Filangieri, Naples, Italy. An excerpt is here.
04 Dec 2013 – Conservatorio Tartini, Trieste, Italy. Performance here.
29 Nov 2013 – SuperBuddha, Turin, Italy. Website.
28 Nov 2013 – Conservatorio B. Marcello, Venice, Italy.
21 Aug 2013 – Cage 10: Past Present Future, Tajung Malim, Malaysia.
14 Apr 2012 – Cage In Us Festival, Brisbane, Australia
28 Mar 2012 – Scale Variable, Perth, Australia. Excerpt.
3 Feb 2012 – Il Suono De Soli Festival, Palermo, Italy. Exceprt. Brisbane and Perth program notes.
Decibel rework these pieces using a combination of contemporary technologies as well as original analogue sound production qualities. This involves new score readers and creators (projected to the audience), interactive devices, networked systems, no-input systems and new choreography. An iPad App is soon to be released which features all the score generators.
Variations I (1958)
Variations III (1962)
Variations IV (1963)
Variations V (1965)
This work was created in collaboration with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and a number of prominent electronic musicians of the time, and can be thought of as one of the first mixed media performance works. Sound sources for the first performance were short wave radios and pre recorded tapes distributed over six speakers in the hall.
Sound is triggered and manipulated by dancer movement using photocells, and the performance involved light shows as well as televisions. Decibel perform this piece with a group of four dancers and adapted electronics built by the ensemble, including proximity antennas and light sensitive devices, with attention given to the detail of the original performance.
Variations VI (1966)
Variations VI (1966) is an electro-centric work for as many sound sources and speakers as are chosen to be available, and returns to the transparency method of scoring that Cage left aside in Variations V. Decibel perform this on bass and electric guitar. The original performance included an enormous collection of electronic circuitry, radios, tape and a television screens so here the Decibel approach is quite different and choices are made around the curation of the Variations as an entire series.
Variations VII (1967)
Variations VIII (1968)
Hope, C., Vickery, L., Wyatt, A., James, S. (2013). Mobilising John Cage: The Design and Generation of Score Creators for the Complete John Cage Variations I – VIII. Malaysian Music Journal. 2(1) p34-45.
Vickery, L., Hope, C. & James, S. (2012). Digital Adaptations of the Scores for Cage Variations I, II and III. Proceedings of the International Computer Music Conference, Slovenia.
Hope, C., James, S. & Vickery, L. (2012). New Digital Interactions with John Cage’s Variations IV, V and VI. Proceedings of the Australasian Computer Music Conference, The School of Music Griffith University, Brisbane.
The tour of this project to Europe in 2013 was supported by International Pathways, through the Australia Council.