John Cage performing the Suite for Toy Piano. Living Theatre, NY. March 14, 1960.

Saturday, November 13, 8PM – 10PM

Free + Open to all

BMCM+AC (120 College Street, Downtown Asheville)

Presented as part of ReVIEWING 12

Two performances present the wide-ranging works of John Cage. The 12th annual ReVIEWING conference has a thematic focus on the remarkable and far-reaching impact of John Cage’s ideas and practices. Cage was a radical thinker, composer, musician, collaborator, visual artist, writer, and Buddhist. His legacy in music, performance, and visual art is incalculable. Through Revisiting John Cage, BMCM+AC encourages expansive conversation on, and responses to, the composer’s works and influences through a broad and global perspective.

Carl Patrick Bolleia – John Cage Piano/Toy Piano Retrospective: Black Mountain Keyboard

Thomas Moore – solo piano works by John Cage, with a focus on compositions written around 1952 and 1953

Carl Patrick Bolleia – John Cage Piano/Toy Piano Retrospective: Black Mountain Keyboard (30 minutes)

Black Mountain College served as the world premiere site for Cage’s magnum opus for solo prepared piano, Sonatas and Interludes. It was with this work of sonic variety that the timbral range of the modern piano was expanded to seemingly innumerable possibilities on a large-scale. Continued inspiration at Black Mountain College led to Cage’s iconoclastic and most well known work, 4:33, which consequently led Cage to become ridiculed by mainstream academia and music, often times disparagingly regarded more for his “philosophy” than compositions. This reputation has resulted with much of Cage’s piano works remaining unknown and not performed by most pianists. This is lamentable, as Cage’s formalized piano compositions deserve to occupy a place in the contemporary pianist’s repertoire. Taking influence from high baroque counterpoint, Japanese poetry, improvisation, indeterminacy, Erik Satie, and music of the American vernacular tradition, Cage’s piano compositions are distinctly marked with clarity of texture and variety of style. A proposed survey of his piano works to be performed would include works not as well known, such as Jazz StudyIn a LandscapeSuite for Toy PianoSeven Haikus, and selections from his Etudes Australes. It is the desire and hope of this performance to revive interest in the muse of Black Mountain College and Cage’s piano music — music that deserves to be studied in conservatory and university curriculums, performed in recitals, and to take it’s place as some of the greatest contributions of the canon of 20th Century American Piano Music.


Thomas Moore – solo piano works by John Cage, with a focus on compositions written around 1952 and 1953 (40 minutes)

This concert program of solo piano works by John Cage, has a focus on compositions written around 1952 and 1953, the years of Cage’s second and third visits to Black Mountain College. The program may include: 4’33” (1952) Water Music (1952) Haikus (1950–51) For M.C. and D.T. (1952) Two Pastorales (1951–52) Music for Piano 2 (1953) Music for Piano 20 (1953).

These works — along with several others, such as Music of Changes (1951) and the Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra (1950–51) — represent some of Cage’s earliest exploration of chance operations, a significant shift in his compositional style and aesthetic outlook that reflected his newfound familiarity with the I Ching and his continued and profoundly influential Zen studies with D.T. Suzuki, who had moved to New York in 1950. Writing to Pierre Boulez, Cage stated, “I have the feeling of just beginning to compose for the first time.”

“Whereas in 1948 Cage was enjoying a period of critical acceptance, by 1952 when he returned to Black Mountain for a second summer, he was receiving scathing reviews and had been abandoned by many of his peers,” noted Mary Emma Harrison in volume 4 of the Journal of Black Mountain College Studies. Fortunately, Cage was steadfast in this new exploration of chance operations, even to the initial detriment of his reputation.

The concert program is designed not only to hold audience attention, but also to demonstrate the variety of Cage’s early experimentation with chance operations. 4’33”, perhaps Cage’s most famous composition (although infrequently performed), is dedicated to Irwin Kremin, a Black Mountain student. Water Music requires the pianist to not only play on the keyboard, but also to blow whistles, pour water, and deal playing cards into the piano. (In this concert, Water Music would be performed with a water warbler given to the pianist by Cage expressly for the piece.) The Haikus and Pastorales employ essentially the same complex chance operations processes as Music of Changes, and the Music for Piano series were written by looking for imperfections on staff paper. The short piece For M.C. and D.T. carries the initials of two other BMC figures, Mary Caroline Richards and David Tudor, the latter of whom performed a number of Cage’s piano works at Black Mountain College.

I was fortunate to know Cage from 1982 until his death in 1992. He attended many of my performances (including presentations of works such as 4’33”, Water Music, and the Music for Piano series), and appreciated and approved of my interpretations of his music. It is hoped that this proposed concert program will bring to light Cage’s works from the Black Mountain College era, some of which are infrequently heard, while providing an opening for discussion on Cage’s relationship to Zen Buddhism and his adoption of chance operations.