Program Type: 
San Francisco Contemporary Music Players in association with YBCA
John Cage: Musicircus

John Cage's exuberant musical carnival

October 28, 2012
YBCA Forum


San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, in association with YBCA, presents
Sun, Oct 28  •  1 pm  •  Forum

American composer John Cage was one of the most influential and controversial musical voices of the 20th century. For three days at the end of October, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players celebrate the centennial of Cage’s birth with performances and activities that explore the magic and mayhem that defined his long and notorious career. The celebration culminates at YBCA with a new production of Cage’s exuberant musical carnival Musicircus on Sunday, October 28. In this free marathon concert, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and friends will perform Cage’s music and writings simultaneously throughout YBCA’s Forum and galleries. Audiences are invited to come and go throughout the afternoon and to experience the full range of Cage’s genius, from exuberant periods of raucous energy to moments of silence and contemplation. The day also features a variety of food carts, student performances, and a self-guided sound walk, and is appropriate for all ages and all levels of musical knowledge or experience.

A John Cage Centennial Celebration

Musicircus is the third in a three-part festival presented by San Francisco Contemporary Music Players celebrating John Cage's centennial year. Two more programs preceding the Musicircus event take place at YBCA:

Performance: John Cage's Construction
Thu, Oct 25, 2012  •  8pm  •  YBCA Forum
Percussionists Steven Schick, William Winant, Daniel Kennedy, and Christopher Froh will perform Cage’s groundbreaking series of three Constructions, along with recent ensemble works by Missy Mazzoli, Lei Liang, and Samuel Carl Adams.
More information at »

Panel Discussion: Young American Composers and the Legacy of John Cage
Fri, Oct 26, 2012  •  8pm  •  YBCA Screening Room
Young American composers will join in a conversation with Artistic Director Steven Schick about the ways in which this revolutionary artist has expanded their own musical language and opened up new possibilities for composers today.

More information at »

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  • John Cage's Musicircus
    Oct 28, 2012 12:00pm
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Related Programs

October 28, 2012 - 2:00pm
Screening Room

Tracing the history of their renowned collaboration, the film explores the artistic and philosophical associations that Cage and Cunningham have had with a wide range of leading figures in the art, literary, dance and music worlds. (1991, 100 min, digital)

October 27, 2012 - 2:00pm
Screening Room

Curator and scholar Jonathan D. Katz (Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture) delivers a lecture entitled “John Cage’s Queer Silence” on John Cage, the closet, and silence.

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Artist Bio

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, an ensemble of highly skilled musicians, performs innovative new music of exceptional interest. Led by Artistic Director Steven Schick, it attracts and engages audiences through concert events in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, and nourishes the creation and dissemination of new work through commissioning, recording, and outreach. The sixteen members of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players are all active as soloists and chamber musicians. Many are members of the San Francisco Symphony, Ballet, or Opera orchestras; others perform and record with their own chamber ensembles.
Now in its fifth decade, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players is a national leader among advocates for contemporary chamber music. The ensemble has commissioned pieces from such composers as John Cage, Chaya Czernowin, Mario Davidovsky, John Harbison, George Lewis, Shulamit Ran, and Julia Wolfe; has won the national ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music ten times; and has performed at such notable festivals as MANCA (France), Cheltenham (England), and Ojai (California). Through residencies in San Francisco public high schools, the ensemble has also been introducing students to the music of our time for more than twenty years.

Steven Schick, Artistic Director
The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players is led by internationally renowned conductor and percussionist Steven Schick. Lauded as a “brilliant” conductor by Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times, Schick has spent the last thirty years championing contemporary percussion music as a conductor, performer, and teacher. He has commissioned and premiered more than one hundred new works by composers as varied as Brian Ferneyhough, David Lang, and Iannis Xenakis. He is the founder and Artistic Director of the percussion group red fish blue fish, the Music Director and conductor of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, and a frequent guest conductor of New York’s International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). In addition to his work as a conductor and performer, Schick nurtures the next generation of artists as Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego, where he was honored with the UCSD Chancellor's Associates Faculty Excellence Award for 2011-2012.

John Cage
John Cage was born in Los Angeles in 1912. He studied with Richard Buhlig, Henry Cowell, Adolph Weiss, and Arnold Schoenberg. In 1952, at Black Mountain College, he presented a theatrical event considered by many to have been the first Happening. He was associated with Merce Cunningham from the early 1940s and was Musical Advisor for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company until Cage’s death in 1992. Cage and Cunningham were responsible for a number of radical innovations in musical and choreographic compositions, such as the use of chance operations and the independence of dance and music.

Cage was the recipient of many awards and honors, beginning in 1949 with a Guggenheim Fellowship and an award from the National Academy of Arts and Letters for having extended the boundaries of music through his work with percussion orchestra and his invention in 1940 of the prepared piano. Cage was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978, and was inducted into the 50-member American Academy of Arts and Letters in May, 1989. He was named Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture in 1982, and received an Honorary Doctorate of Performing Arts from the California Institute of the Arts in 1986. Cage was the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University for the 1988-1989 academic year. He was laureate of the 1989 Kyoto Prize given by the Inamori Foundation.

In 1987, he wrote, designed, and directed Euroceras 1 & 2, with the assistance of Andrew Culver, for the Frankfurt Opera. 101 (1989) was commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University. Euroceras 3 & 4 was commissioned by the Almeida Music Festival and Modus Vivandi Foundation in 1990. The 1991 Zurich June Festival was devoted to the work of John Cage and James Joyce.

Cage is the author of Silence, A Year from Monday, M, Empty Words, and X (all published by the Wesleyan University Press). I-VI (the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures delivered at Harvard in 1988-89) was published by the Harvard University Press in the spring of 1990. This book includes transcripts of the question and answer periods that followed each lecture, and an audiocassette of Cage reading one of the six lectures. Conversations with Cage, a book-length composition of excerpts from interviews by Richard Kostelantz, was published in 1988 by Limelight Editions. Cage's music is published by the Henmar Press of C. F. Peters Corporation and has been recorded on many labels.

Since 1958, many of Cage's scores have been exhibited in galleries and museums. A series of fifty-two watercolors, the New River Watercolors, executed by Cage at the Miles C. Horton Center at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University was shown at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. in April–May 1990. In 1991, the Cunningham Dance Foundation produced Cage/Cunningham, a documentary film on the collaboration of Merce Cunningham and John Cage, partly funded by PBS, under the direction of Elliot Caplan. John Cage died in New York City on August 12, 1992.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.

YBCA Performance 12-13 is made possible in part by:
Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Additional Funding for YBCA Performance 12-13
Zellerbach Family Foundation
Panta Rhea Foundation
New England Foundation for the Arts
and Members of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts