New World Symphony Presents Centennial Tribute to John Cage, 2/8-10


One of the 20th century's most influential, innovative and provocative artists will be the subject of a special birthday tribute over the weekend of February 8-10, 2013, when the New World Symphony, America's Orchestral Academy (NWS), presents Making the Right Choices: A John Cage Centennial Celebration at the New World Center (500 17th Street).

As part of its 25th anniversary season under the direction of NWS co-founder and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas, NWS will offer three spectacular performances of works by Cage featuring a stellar roster of guest artists, including new-music vocalists Joan La Barbara and Meredith Monk, soprano Jessye Norman, pianist Marc-André Hamelin and dancers from the New World School for the Arts performing choreography by Merce Cunningham.

Laura Kuhn, executive director of the John Cage Trust, will serve as the advisor to this centennial celebration. The weekend festival will be rounded out with film screenings, panel discussions, readings and appearances by additional artists to be announced.

The title summarizes the festival's progression through the music of John Cage, from early in his career, when he made musical choices and notated music, to the middle and end of his career, when he transitioned to creating musical structures for musicians to make the choices within the works, and creating compositions that employ the use of structured chance operations to inform the performance of the works.

The opening program on Friday, February 8 at 7:30 pm, A John Cage Journey, will focus on the early works of Cage's career and will be presented on the main and satellite stages of the New World Center, with the artists performing amid special visual projections, theatrical sets, lighting effects and video recordings of Cage himself reading from his collection of one-minute stories, Indeterminacy. The performance will feature ten works spanning the years from 1939 through 1959, including Imaginary Landscape 1 (1939), Living Room Music (1940), Aria (1958) and Water Walk (1959). Featured artists on the program will include Michael Tilson Thomas as conductor and pianist; vocalists Joan La Barbara and Meredith Monk; soprano Jessye Norman, pianist Marc-André Hamelin and dancers from New World School of the Arts performing choreography by Merce Cunningham.

On Saturday, February 9 at 7:30 pm, Michael Tilson Thomas will lead NWS in a program titled John Cage: Song and Dance, featuring a special performance of the orchestral version of Cage's Cheap Imitation (1969), written for the Merce Cunningham dance company. Brandon Collwes and Andrea Weber, solo dancers from Cunningham's celebrated company, will perform a portion of the original Cunningham choreography (Second Hand), while a newly produced video derived from archival films of the Cunningham troupe will reflect the remaining portions of the dance. The second half of the program will feature a theatrical presentation of selections from Song Books (1970), featuring Meredith Monk, Joan La Barbara, and Jessye Norman, alongside a simultaneous performance by Marc-André Hamelin of the solo piano work Winter Music.

The final performance of the weekend, on Sunday, February 10 at 7:30 pm, will begin with Dance/4 Orchestras (1982), presented as a collage of four small orchestras inside and outside the concert hall, enhanced by a specially designed video collage derived from Cage's graphic work. Marc-André Hamelin will perform selections from Cage's notoriously difficult Etudes Australes, a body of 32 indeterminate works for solo piano that use star charts as source material. The finale, the large-scale improvisatory work Renga (1975-76), will be played by the New World Symphony with Merce Cunningham choreography (Field Dances) performed by dancers from the New World School of the Arts.

Tickets for the New World Symphony's presentation of Making the Right Choices: A John Cage Centennial Celebration begin at $30 for each performance and are available by calling the box office at 305-673-3331. To purchase tickets online visit, or to learn more about the New World Symphony, America's Orchestral Academy, visit

Festival Performance Schedule

Friday, February 8, 7:30 PM
A John Cage Journey
A program of works from the 1940s and 1950s, these performances will take place throughout the concert hall of the New World Center, and will be interspersed with readings of one-minute stories from Cage's Indeterminancy.
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Joan La Barbara, vocalist
Meredith Monk, vocalist
Jessye Norman, soprano
Marc-André Hamelin, piano
Dancers from the New World School of the Arts

Imaginary Landscape 1 (1939) Perilous Night (1944)
Living Room Music (1940) The Seasons (1947)
Third Construction (1941) Sixteen Dances (1950-51)
Credo in Us (1942) Aria (1958)
The Wonderful Widow of 18 Springs (1942) Water Walk (1959)

Saturday, February 9, 7:30 PM
John Cage: Song and Dance
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Joan La Barbara, vocalist
Meredith Monk, vocalist
Jessye Norman, soprano
Marc-André Hamelin, piano
Brandon Collwes, dancer
Andrea Weber, dancer

Cheap Imitation (1969) – Performed with a portion of the original Merce Cunningham
choreography titled "Second Hand" and a newly produced video.
Selections from Song Books (1970)

Sunday, February 10, 7:30 PM
John Cage, Program 3
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Marc-André Hamelin, piano
Three conductors TBA
Dancers from the New World School of the Arts

Dance / 4 Orchestras (1982) – Featuring four conducted ensembles positioned
throughout the concert hall and the New World Center
Etudes Australes (1974-75)
Renga (1975-76)

Dedicated to the artistic, personal and professional development of outstanding instrumentalists, the NWS fellowship program provides intensive post-graduate training and the finest professional preparation through a wide range of experiential performance and instructional activities. Under the artistic direction of Michael Tilson Thomas, the program offers in-depth exposure to traditional and modern repertoire, with the active involvement of leading guest conductors, soloists and coaches. Relationships with these artists are extended through NWS' pioneering experimentation with distance learning via Internet2. Additionally, Fellows benefit from the innovative and state-of-the-art performance, rehearsal and practice facilities of the Frank Gehry-designed New World Center, the campus of the New World Symphony.

In the hopes of joining NWS, more than 1,500 recent music school and conservatory graduates compete for about 35 available fellowships each year. The fellowships are awarded on a season-to-season basis for up to three seasons, and 87 Fellows participate in the program in any given year. Fellows are selected based on both their ability and their passion for the future of classical music.

Designed by Frank Gehry and opened in January 2011, the New World Center is a unique education, performance, production and creative space with state-of-the-art capabilities, owned and operated by the New World Symphony. A global hub for creative expression and collaboration and a laboratory for the way music is taught, presented and experienced, the new building enables the New World Symphony to continue its role as a leader in integrating technology with music education and concert presentation. It is used by the New World Symphony for educational activities, musical and related cultural performances and events, rehearsals, Internet2 transmissions, recordings, broadcasts and webcasts. The venue is also available for third-party uses on a rental basis.

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