This past Saturday I attended Musicircus, an event held by MOCA Cleveland, to celebrate the building’s move to University Circle as well as the centenary of composer John Cage’s birth (Cage was born on September 5, 1912). The new building is designed by Farshid Moussavi, previously co-founder and co-principal of Foreign Office Architects (FOA).
Musicircus is a concept developed by John Cage in 1967: “The idea of this composition is nothing more than an invitation to a number of musicians, who perform simultaneously anything or in any way they desire.”
All performers (over 30 in this case) are treated with equal weight and importance. The length of each musician’s or ensemble’s set, along with their order of presentation, is predetermined in advance by utilizing chance procedures from the I Ching.
Performers were in as many spots in the building as possible, to evoke the “simultaneity of unrelated intentions” which Cage sought with this framework.
The audience was free to roam and focus their attention on one musician or ensemble at a time. Instead of performing myself (though I brought along a few home-made contact mics in hopes for true unplanned sonic intervention) I decided to experience the sound and the architecture of the space while recording with the portable Tascam DR-100. My performance was in the tour of sounds themselves, the movement between the aural happenings. What resulted was a personal tracing of my journey throughout the building: experiencing the myriad of sonic phenomena and textures among the phase shifts from one room to another, footsteps, doors closing, the passing of a group of musicians on the stairwell, a theremin along a wall, violins in a corner, Cluster ‘71-like drones, dinks from a broken wine glass from behind a sculpture, homemade contraptions, random conversations, a baby, garbage bags.
As the entire recording lasted a little over 2 and a half hours, I chose a 12 minute portion which illustrates the success of the event, which you can listen to below. Some of my favorite parts of the event were the in between spaces, where it seemed that out of the chaos, everything was unintentionally part of the whole, peculiarly vibrating together.