“I always get intrigued at the word impossible,” says Tom Erbe, UCSD professor/inventor, as I drive him downtown to gather field recordings. Erbe is referring to the re-creation of “Williams Mix,” a composition by the late sound-artist John Cage, whose 100th birthday is September 5.
With permission from the Cage Trust, Erbe gained access to a version of the 192-page score via the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and he will be the first ever to regenerate a full version of the piece in accordance to Cage’s explicit editing directions.
Over the course of several months, Erbe re-created all the sound-altering plans into a digital format, and a performance will be possible via the visual programming language Pure Data. In addition to the sounds he gathered, Erbe asked several artists to submit sound samples, which will be incorporated into his performance of the piece.
“What [Cage wanted] to do in the piece is to present all possible audible phenomena to the listener in four and a quarter minutes,” explains Erbe.
“The interest of this piece is that there is this form that’s hard to grasp, but there is a form, and there’s direction, and there’s movements that happen, but they’re a bit unpredictable. It’s sort of a machine for making chance juxtapositions that are interesting. It’s like a random music box, in a way. It’s consistently making these interesting things happen.”
At first, Bonnie Wright didn’t realize she planned her season-opening event on John Cage’s 100th birthday, but considering that the Fresh Sound Series highlights experimental approaches to music-making, it turned out to be synchronistic.
Wright was able to sway Erbe into performing “Williams Mix” by telling him, “4:19 of ‘Williams Mix’ is better than 4:33 seconds of silence,” referring to the iconic silent composition entitled “4:33.”
You can celebrate Cage’s 100th birthday on Wednesday, September 5, at Space 4 Art, with cake and sounds by Krautrock artist Dieter Moebius (Kluster), J Lesser (Matmos), Negativwobblyland (Negativeland, Wobbly), and Tom Erbe.