John Cage-Inspired Video Installation Set for Baryshnikov Arts Center, 12/11-15
Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) presents filmmakers Roberta Friedman and Daniel Loewenthal's global documentary project based on experimental composer John Cage's 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs. The video installation, on view at BAC beginning Wednesday, December 11 through Sunday, December 15, creates striking visual and sound portraits taken from the streets of Beijing, Graz, Detroit, Cairo, and New York City, reflecting urban cultures in transition.
A unique artwork by composer John Cage entitled 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in 1977. Using the I Ching method of chance operations, he had superimposed 49 multicolored triangles identifying street locations on a Hagstrom map of New York City. Cage later derived from the map a score "for performer(s) or listener(s) or record maker(s)," encouraging participants to go to the apex of each angle and listen to the sounds of the city. Of Cage's score, Mark Swed ofThe Wall Street Journal wrote: "At the core...is surprise, the surprise of finding unnoticed beauty in sounds, and sometimes sights, we might never have thought interesting or even desirable to investigate."
One of those influenced by 49 Waltzes was Don Gillespie, Cage's music publisher, who sought to create a video realization of Cage's graphic score. Gillespie, his colleague Gene Caprigio, and his collaborator, filmmaker Roberta Friedman, used a rotating camera to film the 147 New York City locations denoted in the score. The duration of each "waltz"-the footage taken at each location-was determined using chance operations. The resultant feature-length film, 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs, was released in 1994.
Inspired by the idea that Cage's work could be "performed" other places, Friedman and filmmaker Daniel Loewenthal have applied Cage's concept to develop a series of video installations from cities worldwide, which to date include Beijing, Graz, Detroit, and Cairo. Excerpts of footage from these places comprise a full-length feature film entitled Cosmopolis: 49 Waltzes for the World (2013), which will have its World Premiere at BAC, on view in Studio 4B.
Also on view, in BAC's adjacent Studio 4A, will be video installations from each city: 49 Waltzes for the Gated City (Beijing, China, 2010); the World Premieres of 49 Waltzes for Graz (Graz, Austria, 2012) with software design by Isaac Dimitrovsky, and 49 Waltzes for the Motor City (Detroit, Michigan, 2013) with program design by Stephen Bannasch; the work-in-progress 49 Waltzes for Al-Qahira (Cairo, Egypt, 2007 and 2009); and the original 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs (NYC, 1994). All map graphics and installation design is by Andrew Matusik.
From the most populated city in the Arabic-speaking world, to the narrow alleyways of China's ancient city, to the deserted streets of Detroit, Friedman and Loewenthal's vivid interpretation of Cage's graphic score places an intimate lens on the sights and sounds of global environments.
Ticket Information Cosmopolis: 49 Waltzes for the World will be on view in Baryshnikov Arts Center's Studios 4A and 4B from December 11 through December 15: December 11 (Wednesday, 12 - 8PM) December 12 (Thursday, 6 - 9PM) December 13 (Friday, 12 - 10PM) December 14 (Saturday 12 - 10PM) December 15 (Sunday 12 - 6PM) Admission is free. Visit bacnyc.org for viewing hours. Baryshnikov Arts Center is located at 450 W. 37th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues.