John Cage Variarions III

Arts at the Armory
191 Highland Street, Suite 1A, Somerville, MA



As (OpenSound 2014)’s) season finale, we are planning a 100 person version of John Cages Variations III. We will set up shop in the large and beautiful space in the Somerville Armory. Filling every corner of the hall and the mezzanine, we will create pathways and multiple sitting areas among the performers. The audience will be invited to walk among the performers and to stop and observe for a while at different vantage points. The act of moving from place to place will create different mixes depending on proximity to the performer.

Tim Feeney, Opensound’s founder, will return to co-curate with Lou Bunk. This performance is dedicated to our loved and missed friend Lou Cohen, who co-directed Opensound for many years and always ended the season with a performance of Variations III.

About the Score and the Composition (from Wikipedia):

Intended “for one or any number of people performing any actions”, this is the first entry in the series that does not make any references to music, musical instruments or sounds. The score consists of two sheets of transparent plastic: one is blank, the other has 42 identical circles on it. Cage instructs the performers to cut the sheet with circles so that they end up with 42 small sheets, a full circle on each. These should then be dropped on a sheet of paper. Isolated circles are then removed, and the rest are interpreted according to complex rules explained in the score. The information derived includes the number of actions and the number of variables that characterize an action. Cage does not specify the performers’ actions, but notes that these can include noticing or responding to “environmental changes”. He also states that although some of the factors of a performance may be planned in advance, the performers should “leave room for unforeseen eventualities”; and that “any other activities are going on at the same time” as the work is performed.

I created my score using rolled dice, voice, and several expired postal mailing templates as my variables. At two points, my instructions involved breaking a template, which instead had to be bent severely to effect a break at all. I folded/broke one down to a single word, “NOT,” which I handed to a friend in the audience.