American composer John Cage (1912-92) was a celebrated pioneer of electronic and chance music. On BALTIC’s Level 1, as part of AV Festival 08’s opening gala, one of his most famous performances was recreated for the first time in the UK. The original Variations VII took place at 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering in the 69th Regiment Armory in New York, in October 1966. Cage intended the work to transform the building into a broadcast space.
Alongside, radios and televisions collecting sounds, there were 10 phone lines connected to city locations including a dog pound and the New York Times press room. Other microphones were attached to household appliances such as a juicer and a blender. There were also Geiger counters and short wave radios. Photoelectric cells triggered different sound sources off and on as the performers moved around. The aim, said Cage, was to go fishing for sounds.
AV Festival 08 staged an entirely new version of the work, performed by an exceptional ensemble of Atau Tanaka, Matt Wand and :zoviet*france:.
Variations VII toured to Rencontres Internationales at Palais de Tokyo, Paris on 20 November 2010 and Radialsystem, Berlin on 14 August 2009.
Atau Tanaka’s early inspiration came upon meeting John Cage during his Norton Lectures at Harvard. He creates musical instruments using bio-sensor interfaces and mobile technologies, and seeks out the continued place of the artist in democratised digital forms. His work has been presented at Ars Electronica, SFMOMA, Eyebeam, V2, ICC, and ZKM. He has been artistic ambassador for Apple, researcher for Sony CSL, artistic co-director of STEIM, and director of Culture Lab Newcastle. He leads a major European Research Council (ERC) project on gesture and music at Goldsmiths Digital Studios in London.
:zoviet*france: is a prolific music group from Newcastle upon Tyne in north east England. While often dissonant and made of industrial textures, their music also falls into the ambient music category. Formed in 1980, and remaining largely anonymous, the group has had a number of members; presently it consists of co-founder Ben Ponton and Mark Warren.
Their music often consists of droning textures set against fractured rhythms and fleeting dissonant melodies and their earlier recordings have been described as "evoking a cross between musique concrète and tribal music". Neglected sound sources are frequently used, such as obscure radio broadcasts, toy instruments, and field recordings, often heavily processed or looped. Over time, they have increasingly added electronic elements but without adopting computer based composition techniques.
Produced by AV Festival 08 in collaboration with BALTIC, in association with the John Cage Trust, Julie Martin/Experiments in Art and Technology and the Daniel Langlois Foundation. World Premiere.