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27 May 2015

Bobby Previte Plays House

Bobby Previte ©Emily Martin
The John Cage Trust is situated at Bard College, 90 scenic miles north of New York City, straight up the Hudson River.  There are many reasons to enjoy the location: the rich intellectual life of Bard, to be sure, but also an abundance of nature, dramatic seasonal changes, year-round farmer's markets, and a surprisingly lively social scene.  And Rhinebeck, Kingston, and Hudson are just a stone's throw away!

In 2014, the John Cage Trust embarked on its first John Cage Evening, an invitational gathering at the Milan home of our gracious host, Susan Hendrickson. The events are invitational -- not to be exclusive, but the space is intimate and 40 or so guests make for just the right fit.  But, we change the guest list from year to year to keep conversations interesting -- those in the know about John Cage commingle with folks new to the fold.  Our first, on Sept. 19, 2014, brought together four individuals in advance of their weekend performance of Cage's works at Bard's Fisher Center for the Performing Arts: Adam Tendler, pianist, Joan Retallack, poet, Garry Kvistad, percussionist, and yours truly.  We had a lively conversation together on the subject of performing Cage, followed by amazing conversation, food, and drink.  

This year we celebrated the close of Reality Radio, our 24/7 audio surveillance project in collaboration with Acra's Wave Farm configured within one of Bard College's Conservatory of Music Percussion Studios, headed up by So Percussion.  But it also was the occasion to bring the drummer Bobby Previte into the John Cage Evening mix, a musician I'd heard much about but not yet met.

Bobby Previte ©Emily Martin
After a bit of conversation together (super interesting, and could have gone on longer!), Bobby played Susan's house, quite literally.  Moving from object to object, inside and out, we scampered after him as he unleashed the sonorous capabilities of walls, gas ranges, vases, ottomans, a swimming pools and even electrical kitchen appliances, these last played by guests, who Bobby ably conducted.  We hadn't announced what this year's entertainment would be, so that at the end, everyone expressed delight and amazement about what had transpired.

Laura Kuhn and Ralph Benko 
©Emily Martin
I think Cage would have been pleased, and you can have a listen here.  Most think that Cage didn't like improvisation, but closer to the truth was that he wanted any act of improvisation, like the act of composition, to serve as a means of discovery.  Bobby allowed that this was precisely what had occurred for him throughout the course of his amazing performance, and I think that Susan might never look at her beautiful surroundings in quite the same way again.  The evening was broadcast live over WGXC 90.7-FM, a wonderful partner here in the Hudson Valley; archived programs are available at  Pre-concert interviews with guests were conducted by Max Goldfarb and Galen Fisher-Hunter.  Thanks to all for making this year's event so special.  

Laura Kuhn