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07 September 2011

John Cage: On & Off the Air!

John Cage's interest in radio began in childhood with original broadcasts created on behalf of his Boy Scouts of America troop and culminated, the year before his death, with his Europera 5 (1991), one of three mixed-media works created for the operatic stage. John Cage: On & Off the Air! -- a touring program under development by the John Cage Trust that will premiere at Bard College's Fisher Center for the Performing Arts in Fall 2012-- means to celebrate this engagement with an ever-changing program of works wrapped around a newly-staged revival of Cage's peripatetic The City Wears a Slouch Hat (CBS Radio Workshop, 1942). Based on a play by Kenneth Patchen, this new staging will feature a new film of light and shadows by Mikel Rouse.

Uniquely, the four elements comprising this revival -- music, sound effects, readers/actors, and film -- will be brought together variously from venue to venue, depending on local resources and talent. Other works on the program will include such of Cage's works as Imaginary Landscape No. 1 (1939), Radio Music (1956), Credo in US (1942), Water Music (1952), 27'10.554 for a Percussionist (1956), Water Walk (1959), Speech (1955), and Rocks (1986), among others.

In conjunction with this newly-created program and the staggering number of events in the works worldwide that mean to celebrate John Cage's 2012 Centennial, free103point9 and the John Cage Trust are pleased to announce 120 Hours for John Cage, an open call for proposals involving Cage's compositions with, for, and about radio. Selected proposals will be broadcast on free103point9's FM radio station, WGXC 90.7 FM in upstate New York, and streamed online throughout a month-long program (120 hours!) scheduled for September 2012.

free103point9 is a New York State-based nonprofit arts organization establishing and cultivating the genre of transmission arts by promoting artists and works informed by the intentional use of space -- often the airwaves. Their major programs include the Transmission Art Archive, an in-progress resource featuring artists, works, exhibitions, and events that define the genre and place it in historical context, and WGXC 90.7 FM: Hands-on Radio, a creative community FM radio station serving Greene and Columbia counties in upstate New York.

The proposal categories are as follows:

1. Recordings of a specific Cage radio composition (old or new)
2. Live performances of a specific Cage radio composition (remote or on-site)
3. Original works in homage or inspired by Cage's radio compositions

The submission deadline is March 1, 2012. For more information, please visit If you're uncertain about the extent of Cage's works for, with, and about radio, or if you'd simply like to discuss possible project proposals, feel free to contact Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust.

Key to the liveliness of both WGXC 90.7 FM and free103point9 is Galen Joseph-Hunter, editor of the recently published Transmission Arts: Artists and Airwaves (PAJ Publications, 2011), which features 150 artists notable for their sonic, visual, and live works spanning early radio experiments of the 1880s to the present day. Dealing with performance, composition, installation, broadcast, public works, and interactive network projects, it places transmission arts in historical context and lays the groundwork for the definition of a new art genre.

You can join free103point9, PAJ Publications, and the Electronic Music Foundation in celebrating this important release at the Brooklyn Book Celebration at the Issue Project Room on Oct. 18, 2011, 7 pm. Featured performers will include Todd Merrell, Kabir Carter, Terry Nauheim, Lazaro Valiente, Joel Chadabe, and others. Admission is free!

On Saturday, September 3, Galen Joseph-Hunter and Laura Kuhn engaged in a spirited, hour-long public conversation about the history and current activities of the John Cage Trust, some of the 2012 events in the worldwide pipeline, and their upcoming work together via WGXC 90.7 FM. Have a listen here!

Laura Kuhn

Photo credits: John Cage's Airborne Radio © Emily Martin, John Cage, Listening © James Klosty