John Cage’s 12-Hour Empty Words at Roulette on August 3rd
File this under: I went with my family to see John Cage perform Empty Words at the Hunter College Auditorium when I was a kid. I was bored out of my mind but somehow I understood that we were seeing something amazing
On August 3, at 8PM at Roulette I will have the chance to experience all 12 hours of Empty Words again.
Varispeed, a group of composer-performers, will perform Part I of their 12-hour arrangement of John Cage’s Empty Words, a landmark text-based work from the mid-70s that transforms speech into music and brings to light the beauty and power of the human voice.
Performing this piece is quite an undertaking.
In Part I, Cage’s text “establishes a distinctly non-syntactical speech rhythm with words and phrases arranged through chance operations from Thoreau’s journals.” The vocalist-performer-arrangers of Varispeed (Aliza Simons, Dave Ruder, Paul Pinto, Brian McCorkle, & Gelsey Bell) and special guests augment their voices with a bevvy of electronics, “while spatializing sound and action into a Cagean feast for the senses.”
Varispeed is a newly formed collective of composer-performers from experimental theatre group Panoply Performance Laboratory, ensemble thingNY, and Why Lie? that creates site-specific, sometimes-participatory, oftentimes-durational, forevermore-experimental events. Their new arrangements in Perfect Lives Manhattan made Time Out New York and New York Times’ critic Steve Smith’s “Best of 2011” list.
Empty Words will continue in three more installments during the evening. Parts II & III will be performed at nearby Exapno (33 Flatbush Ave, 5th floor) at 11 PM and 2 AM, respectively.
And the final installment occurs at 5AM in the morning on the Brooklyn Bridge:
Part IV will be a sound walk across the Bridge at 5 AM. All parts are free and open to the public.
Tags: 11215, Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge, experimental music, experimental performance, John Cage, Park Slope, roulette, Varispeed