“A Purposeless Play”: works for percussion ensemble, everyday objects, radio play, musicircus and dance

Saturday, September 29
3–5 p.m.

  • Apartment House 1776 - musicircus for patriotic explosion, with four vocalists, keyboards, winds, and percussion
  • Cartridge Music – music for amplified small sounds
  • Ornamentation Variations- dance septet set to Cage’s Mysterious Adventure for prepared piano
  • Living Room Music – percussion quartet for living room objects
  • The City Wears a Slouch Hat – surreal radio play with sound effects telling the haunting tale of “The Voice”

Iktus Percussion

Artists: Iktus Percussion (Chris Graham, Steve Sehman, Cory Bracken, Justin Wolf, Nicholas Woodbury) Elevator Rose (Joe Fee, Fred Trumpy), Vervet Dance Company, Sarah J. Davis, Leighanne Saltsman, Marielle Murphy, Will Larche, Samantha Enriquez, Jennifer Choi, Melinda Faylor, Frederick Trumpy, Joe Tucker, Adam Tendler, and Monika Haar

The Secret Theatre
44-02 23rd St, Long Island City, NY 11101
bet. 44th Av & 44th Rd
Subway: E/M to 23rd St—Ely Ave, 7 to 45th Rd—Court House Sq, G to Court Sq
(718) 392-0722

Vervet Dance Company


$15 at the door or through Brown Paper Tickets
$60 for a Festival Pass

Adam Tendler

Apartment House 1776 (1976) Musicircus or voice and unspecified melody instruments. The singers, who represent the four religious traditions practiced at the United States’ founding in 1776, select authentic songs from their respective traditions and sing them without attempting to match them to those of the other singers.The title of the piece refers to the idea of trying to capture the musical and cultural influences in America in 1776- all of these influences converging in an apartment house and what that would have sounded like. The musical material is derived from works by other composers (music from the time of the American Revolution and Drum Book by Benjamin Clarke). The piece is made up of a selection from the following music in any order (decided by individual groups): 44 Harmonies, 14 Tunes, 4 Marches and 2 Imitations.

Cartridge Music (1960) Music for amplified small sounds. The word ‘Cartridge’ refers to the cartridge of old phonographic pick-ups, where one can put needle into the apertures. In ‘Cartridge Music’ one inserts all kinds of small objects into the cartridges, such as pipe-cleaners, matches, feathers, wires etc. Furniture is used as well, with contact microphones connected to them. All sounds are to be amplified and controlled by the performer(s). Each performer makes his part from the materials provided: 20 numbered sheets with irregular shapes (the number of shapes corresponding to the number of the sheet) and 4 transparencies, one with points, one with circles, another with a circle marked like a stopwatch and the last with a dotted curving line, with a circle at one end. These transparencies should be superimposed on one of the 20 sheets, in order to create a constellation from where one can create one’s part.

Ornamentation Variations (2012) is a new variation on an earlier work, Ornamentation (2010) also choreographed by Loren Groenendaal. Both of the dances are coordinated to “Mysterious Adventure,”a prepared piano piece by John Cage. Ornamentation has been performed several times with eleven different dancers filling the seven roles across the various performances, delighting audiences in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. In spirit of John Cage’s interest in chance operations, Ornamentation Variations (2012) is for any number of dancers and in any combination of roles. The number and roles are determined by dancer availability. For this Cage Hop performance on 9/29/12, Loren Groenendaal, Mary O’Brien, and Kelly Turner will be performing a trio version. The original dance was choreographed in the style of a highly codified court dance. In this case for an imagined culturem, but inspired by Balinese dance as well as the behavior of birds. This reconfiguration into a chance-based trio strips the dance of many of the tightly organized spatial designs that gave the work the look of court dance. Now as a trio, Ornamentation Variations has a more organic feeling further highlighting the bird  inspiration while paying homage to the composer of the music.

Living Room Music (1940) A quartet for unspecified instruments, all of which may be found in a living room of a typical house, hence the title. Living Room Music is dedicated to Cage’s then-wife Xenia. The work consists of four movements: “To Begin”, “Story”, “Melody”, and “End”. Cage instructs the performers to use any household objects or architectural elements as instruments, and gives examples: magazines, cardboard, “largish books”, floor, wooden frame of window, etc. The first and the last movements are percussion music for said instruments. In the second movement the performers transform into a speech quartet: the music consists entirely of pieces of Gertrude Stein’s short poem “The World Is Round” spoken or sung. The third movement is optional. It includes a melody played by one of the performers on “any suitable instrument.”

The City Wears a Slouch Hat (1942) Subtitle is “Incidental music for the radio play by Kenneth Patchen”. This is a radio play set for narration and percussion. Text by Kenneth Patchen. In 1941 Cage got a commission for CBS Radio to write music for a radio play. The instruments are including: tin cans, muted gongs, woodblocks, alarm bells, tam tam, bass drum, Chinese tom tom, bongos, cowbells, maracas, claves, ratchett, pod rattle, foghorn, thunder sheet, sound-effect recordings, etc. The script sketches a surreal story on a man named ‘The Voice’ who wanders around a big city, meeting various characters and circumstances. This play marks a period of time in Cage’s life that was plagued by struggle after moving to New York. The work was not a success at the time.