Marking the 100th anniversary of John Cage’s birth and 20th anniversary of his death, this evening focused on slowness and duration, across six distinctive performances. Cage’s Postcard from Heaven performed by Rhodri Davies (harp) included continuously sustained sounds. Ryoanji performed by Susan Stenger (flute), Robert Poss (percussion) and Dominic Lash (double bass), is Cage’s long, meditative work inspired by a Zen garden. World premieres included A Cage of Stars composed by Phill Niblock for Rhodri Davies, and The Lament of John Cage by Yoshi Wada for Susan Stenger and Robert Poss (electric guitar), Tashi Wada (reed organ), Joe Whelan (timpani), and the City of Newcastle Pipeband. Poets Kenneth Goldsmith and Alec Finlay read Cage’s texts and poetry inspired by him.
Rhodri Davies was born in 1971 in Aberystwyth, Wales and now lives in Gateshead. He plays harp, electric harp, live-electronics and builds wind, water and fire harp installations. His regular groups include: a duo with John Butcher, The Sealed Knot, a trio with David Toop and Lee Patterson, Common Objects, Cranc, a trio with John Tilbury and Michael Duch, SLW and Apartment House. In 2008 he collaborated with the visual artist Gustav Metzger on Self-cancellation, a large-scale event in London and Glasgow. New pieces for harp have been composed for him by: Eliane Radigue, Christian Wolff, Ben Patterson, Alison Knowles, Michael Pisaro, Carole Finer, Mieko Shiomi, Radu Malfatti and Yasunao Tone.
Phill Niblock is a New York-based minimalist composer, musician, filmmaker, and since 1985 director of Experimental Intermedia. His first musical compositions date from 1968, influenced by the New York music scene in the 1960s. His early works were all done with tape, overdubbing unprocessed recordings of precisely tuned long tones played on traditional instruments in four, eight, or sixteen tracks. Since the late 1990s his music has been created with computer technology, notably with Pro Tools, involving as many as forty tracks. His compositional process often begins with recordings of single tones played by a specific musician. The range of musicians he has collaborated with include Susan Stenger, Petr Kotik, Robert Poss, Lee Ranaldo, Thurston Moore, Ulrich Krieger, Carol Robinson and many others.
Susan Stenger was born in Buffalo, New York. After intensive classical flute studies in Prague and New York, she joined Petr Kotik's Brooklyn-based SEM Ensemble and devoted herself to performing music of twentieth century composers, including John Cage, Christian Wolff and Phill Niblock. She soon began making her own work for flute and electronics, as well as touring with Rhys Chatham's all-electric-guitar band. In 1986 she joined Robert Poss in founding seminal guitar group Band of Susans, who went on to release nine critically acclaimed CDs. After moving to London in 1996, Stenger formed performance group The Brood and all-bass-band Big Bottom. In 2006 she created a 96-day sound installation as part of Soundtrack For An Exhibition, presented at Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon.
Yoshi Wada is a sound artist and musician born in Kyoto, Japan. He studied sculpture at the Kyoto City University, and then moved to New York in the late 1960s. There he joined the Fluxus movement after meeting its founder George Maciunas, spent time studying composition and electronic music with La Monte Young and singing with the North Indian vocalist Pandit Pran Nath. From the 1970s onwards he constructed a series of large, handmade bagpipe instruments and adapted pipe organs; and composed work for portable bagpipes, pipe chanter and percussion. His work has been presented at The Kitchen, New York; Akademie der Kunste, Berlin; Sydney Biennial, Australia; Kraak Festival, Belgium; Emily Harvey Gallery, New York; Whitney Museum of Art, New York; PSI, New York; and Venice Biennial.
Robert Poss is a musician based in New York. In 1986 he joined Susan Stenger in founding seminal guitar group Band of Susans, who went on to release nine critically acclaimed CDs, all produced by Poss. In 2002 he released two solo CDs on Trace Elements Records, and was described by Tape Op Magazine as a “guitar genius, drone meister… the master of treated and manipulated guitars”. Since then he has composed and performed music for various choreographers and continued to collaborate and perform with artists including Phill Niblock, Susan Stenger and Rhys Chatham.
Bassist Dominic Lash was born in Cambridge, and currently lives in Bristol. He was based for many years in Oxford, where he helped to resurrect the Oxford Improvisers Cooperative. He has performed with Tony Conrad (in duo and quartet formations), Joe Morris (trio and quartet), Evan Parker (duo, quartet and large ensemble) and the late Steve Reid. Current projects include The Dominic Lash Quartet; The Set Ensemble (an experimental music group mainly focusing on the work of the Wandelweiser composers collective); The Convergence Quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum, Harris Eisenstadt and Alexander Hawkins; a trio with John Butcher and John Russell; Alex Ward's quartet Predicate, and a duo with Patrick Farmer.
Tashi Wada is a San Francisco-based composer and performer, he studied at CalArts in California. Wada’s recent work focuses on sound perception as a basis for direct modes of listening. His work has been performed throughout the US and Europe and released on record labels such as Subpop. For several years he has performed alongside his father Yoshi Wada.
Kenneth Goldsmith is an American poet, based in New York City. He is the founding editor of UbuWeb, teaches Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania and is Senior Editor of PennSound. He hosted a weekly radio show at WFMU from 1995 until June 2010. Goldsmith has published ten books of poetry, notably Fidget (2000), Soliloquy (2001) and Day (2003) and the American trilogy, The Weather (2005), Traffic, (2007) and Sports, (2008). He is the author of a book of essays, Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in a Digital Age (2011). As editor he published I’ll be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews (2004) and is the co-editor of Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (2011).
Alec Finlay is an artist and poet based in Edinburgh. His recent books include Mesostic Remedy (morning star, 2009), Mesostic Interleaved (morning star & The University of Edinburgh, 2009) and Be My Reader (Shearsman Books, 2012). He founded the small press morning star in 1990, including the award-winning pocketbooks series. His work has been exhibited at the 18th Biennial of Sydney; Bluecoat, Liverpool; BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead; Leeds Art Gallery; Tate Britain, London; ICA, London; and Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Curated by AV Festival 12 and Susan Stenger. A Cage of Stars by Phill Niblock was commissioned by AV Festival 12. UK Premiere.
Sat 3 March 2012, 8-10.30pm
St Mary's Square
Gateshead NE8 2JR