Search This Blog

19 April 2016

John Cage at the Grammy's!



SANTA MONICA, Calif. (March 29, 2016) —The Recording Academy®  will honor its 2016 Special Merit Awards recipients with an awards ceremony and live tribute concert on Saturday, April 23, 2016 at The Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. Dubbed "GRAMMY Salute to Music Legends," the event will be produced in partnership with THIRTEEN as part of the "Great Performances" series on PBS, set to air later this year. Led by music industry icon Don Was as musical director, the tribute concert will feature rare performances by honorees and never-seen renditions by those they've inspired. Tickets for the event will be on sale via Ticketmaster beginning Tuesday, March 29, 2016 at 10:00 am PST.

This year's Lifetime Achievement Award honorees include Ruth BrownCelia CruzEarth, Wind & FireHerbie HancockJefferson AirplaneLinda Ronstadt, and RUN DMCJohn CageFred Foster, and Chris Strachwitz are Trustees Award honorees; and EMT and Dr. Harvey Fletcher are Technical GRAMMY® Award recipients. Also being honored is Phillip Riggs, this year's recipient of the GRAMMY Foundation Music Educator Award. Performers will be announced shortly. 

Previously held during GRAMMY Week, this is the first time that The Recording Academy has celebrated the Special Merit Awards with a stand-alone event and musical tribute. In addition to the tribute concert, special celebrity guests will present recipients their award statues and guests will enjoy never-before-seen video packages celebrating each of the honorees' contributions to the music industry and our cultural heritage.

"For many years now, we've wanted to honor Special Merit Awards recipients on a larger scale with an event like 'GRAMMY Salute to Music Legends,' so I'm delighted to partner with THIRTEEN Productions and PBS to bring this worthy celebration to a bigger stage," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "The contributions of our honorees are innumerable, and we look forward to an unforgettable evening as we pay tribute to their exceptional accomplishments."

A production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET, "GRAMMY Salute to Music Legends" will be written by David Wild and directed for television by David Horn, with Mitch Owgang as producer, and David Horn and Neil Portnow as executive producers.

The Lifetime Achievement Award honors performers who have made contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording, while the Trustees Award recognizes such contributions in areas other than performance. Both awards are determined by vote of The Recording Academy's National Board of Trustees. Technical GRAMMY Award recipients are determined by vote of The Academy's Producers & Engineers Wing® Advisory Council and Chapter Committees, and are ratified by The Academy's Trustees. The award is presented to individuals and companies who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field.

About the Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees:

Ruth Brown* began her musical career in the church choir at the tender age of 4. A singer/songwriter, record producer, composer, and actress noted for bringing a pop music style to R&B music, Brown became one of the undisputed architects of the genre. She recorded a number of hit songs, including "I'll Wait For You," "I Know," "5-10-15 Hours," and "Mambo Baby." She later went on to have a successful theater career.

Celia Cruz* was one of the most popular salsa singers and performers in history. Known internationally as the "Queen of Salsa," the Cuban-American Cruz was a larger-than life-personality. She recorded 23 gold albums and was a recipient of the United States National Medal of Arts. Cruz received three GRAMMY Awards and four Latin GRAMMY Awards.

Six-time GRAMMY winners Earth, Wind & Fire were one of the most important and innovative contemporary pop/R&B musical forces of the 20th century. Members Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn, Johnny Graham, Ralph Johnson, Al McKay, Fred White, Maurice White*, Verdine White, and Andrew Woolfolk built the group's distinctive signature sound, which has remained profoundly influential. Successfully breaking down all musical genre boundaries since forming in 1969, they recorded seven #1 R&B singles and eight Top 10 pop albums. Earth Wind & Fire earned more than 50 gold and platinum album certifications and more than 90 million albums worldwide, placing them on the list of best-selling musical artists of all time.  

One of the most revered and idiosyncratic figures in jazz, Herbie Hancock has been at the forefront almost every development in electronic and acoustic jazz and R&B. A stylistically diverse and ever-intriguing canon of songs, including "Maiden Voyage" and "Rockit," has helped earn him 14 GRAMMY Awards during his impressive five-decade-plus professional solo career.

Marty Balin, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden*, Paul Kantner*, Jorma Kaukonen, and Grace Slick comprised Jefferson Airplane, pioneers of counterculture-era psychedelic rock. Emerging from the San Francisco scene to achieve international mainstream success, performing at the three most famous American rock festivals of the 1960s — Monterey (1967), Woodstock (1969), and Altamont (1969). Their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow is regarded as one of the key recordings of the "Summer of Love." Two hits from that album, "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit," are among Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

With roots in the Los Angeles country and folk-rock scenes, Linda Ronstadt is one of the most popular interpretive singers of all time, earning a string of platinum-selling albums and Top 40 singles. Throughout the 1970s, her laid-back pop never lost sight of her folky roots, yet as Ronstadt moved into the 1980s, she began to change her sound with the times, adding new wave influences. Her later years saw the 10-time GRAMMY winner exploring traditional pop, Latin, and musical theater. 

RUN DMC, comprising of Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell*, and Joseph "Reverend Run" Simmons, were one of the most influential and best-known acts in the history of rap. They were the first group in the genre to have a gold album (RUN DMC., 1984) and to be nominated for a GRAMMY Award. They were also the first hip-hop group to earn a platinum record (King Of Rock, 1985), and the first to earn multiplatinum certification (Raising Hell, 1986).

About the Trustees Award Honorees:

John Cage* was an avant-garde composer whose inventive works and unorthodox ideas profoundly influenced the entire music industry. His innovative ideas on composition and performance influenced a broad spectrum of artists including fellow musicians, dancers, choreographers, painters and more. Cage remained on the leading edge of both playful and profound experimentalism for the greater part of his career. One of Cage's best-known and most sonically intriguing innovations, the prepared piano, has become an almost commonplace compositional resource. 
Music entrepreneur Fred Foster contributed a great deal to the Nashville music scene of the 1960s and 1970s as a producer and as the head of one of the city's strongest independent labels, Monument Records. He is best known for producing many classic hits by Roy Orbison. He also played a vital role in the career of Kris Kristofferson, and worked with Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Ray Stevens, among others. From 1960 to 1964, Foster produced the overwhelming bulk of hit songs with which Orbison is associated: "Only The Lonely," "In Dreams," "Running Scared," "Blue Bayou," "Blue Angel," "Dream Baby," "Crying," "Candy Man," "Mean Woman Blues," "It's Over," and "Oh, Pretty Woman."  

Chris Strachwitz has made his living celebrating the music he loves – music that forms the fabric of both American and international culture.  He is the founder of Arhoolie Records and produces much of the content he releases. To blues fans he is a legend, releasing seminal works by Mississippi Fred McDowell, Mance Lipscomb, Charlie Musselwhite, Rebirth Brass Band, Big Joe Williams, Big Mama Thornton, Lightnin' Hopkins, Earl Hooker, and Elizabeth Cotten, and many others. Strachwitz also produces Cajun music, highlighted by his releases by Clifton Chenier, and also focused on Mexican recordings, especially Norteño music.

About the Technical GRAMMY Award Recipients:

Known as the father of stereophonic sound, Dr. Harvey Fletcher* was a prominent physicist, credited with inventing the hearing aid and the first audiometer. Through his research, he was able to document and demonstrate the spatial effects of sound, which he called auditory perspective, or stereo. However, it was his profound interest in music that led Fletcher to partner with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and this collaboration produced more than 100 stereo recordings. In his tests, listeners were often unable to distinguish the difference between the live orchestra and the recordings. 

EMT (Elektro-Mess-Technik) was founded in Berlin in 1940, originally manufacturing high-end pro measuring devices and turntables for broadcast, television, and recording studios. In 1957, the company made a huge breakthrough with the release of the EMT 140 Reverberation Unit — the first plate reverb. Upon its introduction, the EMT 140 Reverberation Unit quickly garnered popularity, providing a smoother substitute to spring reverb systems, simplifying the process of affecting recorded sound while providing the engineer with a more versatile and customizable interface than acoustic chambers. With the plates' introduction, the sound of popular music changed dramatically as evident in English recordings made at Abbey Road by the Beatles and Pink Floyd, as well as RCA Victor recordings by Nashville’s Chet Atkins and many others.

*Denotes posthumous award

Established in 1957, The Recording Academy is an organization of musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, and recording professionals dedicated to improving the cultural condition and quality of life for music and its makers. Internationally known for the GRAMMY Awards — the preeminent peer-recognized award for musical excellence and the most credible brand in music — The Recording Academy is responsible for groundbreaking professional development, cultural enrichment, advocacy, education, and human services programs. The Academy continues to focus on its mission of recognizing musical excellence, advocating for the well-being of music makers and ensuring music remains an indelible part of our culture. For more information about The Academy, please visit For breaking news and exclusive content, follow @TheGRAMMYs on Twitter, "like" The GRAMMYs on Facebook  and join The GRAMMYs' social communities on Google+InstagramTumblr, and YouTube

# # # 

Media Contacts:
Neda Azarfar                                                                           
The Recording Academy                                             

Andie Cox
The Recording Academy

18 April 2016

John Cage's "How to Get Started" (1989-)

On August 20, 1989, John Cage finished up at the Telluride “Composer-to-Composer Festival” and headed for the Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio, California, where he would participate in “Sound Design: An Invitational Conference on the Uses of Sound for Radio Drama, Film, Video, Theater and Music” (Aug. 29-31), hosted by Bay Area Radio Drama. He planned to present a portion of his James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet (1982), a whimsical radio play he’d earlier created for Klaus Schöning and Cologne’s WDR. 

Cage left Telluride feeling slightly unsettled by an altercation he’d had with a fellow composer – Anthony Davis.  Each of the composers was given time to speak about their current work, addressing the group with particular problems they were encountering and eliciting advice. At his designated afternoon session, Davis wanted to talk about incorporating improvisation within the context of an otherwise fully notated score. Uncharacteristically, Cage dismissed this as an unimportant concern.

Most folks think that Cage was summarily against improvisation. From his vantage point, and as generally practiced, there were all manner of things to overcome: control, emotion, style, personality, hierarchy, intuition, celebrity, habit, intention. On the surface, then, Cage's dismissal of Davis's preoccupation seems entirely sensible.  If history is witness, however, it might be truer to say that Cage was interested in improvisation, but in a kind of improvisation whereby one's actions, indeed one's end result, couldn’t be entirely controlled or foreseen. This was certainly the case with his co-called “music of contingency,” exemplified by such compositions as his Child of Tree (Improvisation I) (1975) and Branches (1976). Both of these works make use of unruly plant matter as musical instruments, and Cage aptly described them as a kind of "improvisation in which there is a discontinuity between cause and effect."

And two of the so-called "number" pieces from 1992, the last year of his life – Four6 and One12 – were described by Cage as "structural improvisations."

For the Bay Area Radio Drama conference, Cage abandoned his idea to present Alphabet, and instead devised a new work. Eliciting the collaboration of two on-site recording engineers, Dennis Leonard and Bob Schumacher, he made a proposition.  Having written ten topics of concern on ten index cards, Cage wanted to extemporize in turn on each one, their order determined by chance, while the engineers recorded and played back his performances. And so it went. For his performance, Cage extemporized on topic one, which was duly recorded.  While he extemporized on topic two, topic one was played back in the room, and both were recorded.  While he extemporized on topic three, topics one and two combined were played back in the room, and all three were recorded.  And so forth.  Cage's extemporizations along the way were inevitably altered by what he was hearing.  In one, he clearly loses his train of thought, laughs, then forges ahead. At the end, all ten were simultaneously played back, layered upon one another in a happy, McLuhanesque jumble. 

When Cage returned to New York, he went back to work on his Harvard lectures, making no mention of his time in Nicasio. Weeks later, a cassette arrived from Eva Soltes at Bay Area Radio Drama, marked simply “J. Cage, How to Get Started.”  Cage acknowledged this likely contained his Nicasio presentation, and without further conversation the cassette was shelved. 

Long after Cage’s death, I rediscovered the recording in the archives of the John Cage Trust and set to work transcribing it. Having both the tape and transcription in hand, I approached Aaron Levy at Slought Foundation in Philadelphia to explore the possibility of a collaboration between our two organizations that might somehow extend its life. What resulted is a permanent interactive installation at Slought that enables the public to create their own realizations, adding yet another layer of recordings to the historical mix. A dedicated website was quickly created, which serves as an evolving digital repository and archive for the recordings being ongoingly generated.  

The website also hosts Cage’s introduction to the work as well as audio portions of his one and only performance.  Cage’s topics ran the gamut between nearly life-long interests on the one hand – silence (60), harmony (10), time (8) – and, on the other, emerging ideas about new compositions (1, 3).  His experiences at “Composer-to-Composer” are brought to bear on several (1, 2, 6), while others emphasize specific extant compositions, considered in the present tense (2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9).  And more than two dozen individuals who were relevant to his thinking at the time are sprinkled throughout. Here's a little Wordle Cloud of all ten of Cage's extemporized texts:

To date, we’ve performed the work live, with the public, several times, most recently April 8-9, 2016, here at Bard College, in the Conservatory of Music’s Bito Auditorium. Participants were Roger Berkowitz, Olive Carrollhach, David Degge, Brian Dewan, John Kelly, Chris Mann, Pauline Oliveros, Jamie Parry, and Bobby Previte.  Our usual technical team -- Aaron Levy and myself, curators/producers, Peter Price, collaborating sound engineer, and Ken Saylor, staging and design -- was augmented by Emily Martin, photographer, and Seth Chrisman, a composer and resident sound engineer at Bard.

The realizations were stupendous and remarkably different!  While these are all available on our website, to whet your appetite I've included three here, randomly selected:

And just for fun, 

Pauline Oliveros (who was present at Cage's performance in Nicasio and who garnered a standing ovation at Bard)

How to Get Started is an amazing work, both to hear and to perform.  Realizations are as distinct as snowflakes, and always disarmingly honest and complex.  Each reveals the performer's willingness to share, and to experiment with thinking out loud.  To arrange a visit to Slought, or to schedule your own realization, click here.

All photos ©Emily Martin

Laura Kuhn