Variations VII by John Cage

Variations VII by John Cage / 2008 Microcinema / 41/85 Minutes / /

Variations VII is a John Cage performance that linked together dance, music, and art into something comprehensive and compelling. Microcinema has released this DVD with the film of this performance, along with the full performance (85 minutes to the 41 captured by the film) of Variations VII. The names associated with this film are huge: Robert Rauschenberg, Alex Hay, Steve Paxton, Robert Whitman, and Lucinda Childs are all present here. John Cage’s work here show one of the first times that art, music, and science were linked together in such a cohesive way, and would allow post-modern art the ability to create similar types of installations. Variations VII also marks one of the last forays that Cage would make in the indeterminate compositions that ey would create, marking nearly a decade since the first time ey created an indeterminate work (1958).

10 telephone lines, linking Cage to a dog kennel, the Aviary, a power station, and the New York Times press room, provided further types of noises and sounds that Cage could tap. The ambient and everyday noise sources were not limited to those 10 telephone lines, however: Cage had a microphone near household implements like a fan, a juicer, a toaster, and the like. The composition was further modified through Cage’s inclusion of different photocells, which were activated through the moving around of the audience. Cage’s composition was not planned out in a traditional sense, and the audience could and did modify what ultimately made it onto film and tape alike.

To get a sense of what the compositions sounded like, consider this quote by James Pritchett: “The sound system was designed with the limitation that only sounds that arose during the performance were to be used — in other words, the performers would not make any actions to generate sounds deliberately, but rather would use technological means to discover sounds in the air “as through with a net.”. Microcinema has transferred this concert to DVD, and the quality of the footage itself is stunning. Stark and stunning, much like Cage’s compositions themselves, this footage shows Cage and fellow compatriots at the pinnacle of their careers. There will undoubtedly be more footage from the 9 Evenings series, so keep an ear to the ground about it – Cage’s compositions here are just as impressive as they were when they first were recorded

Rating: 8.0/10

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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