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12.3.09

DCist: Leipzig Quartet's Zen Moment

The best part of the program was saved for last, a rare performance of John Cage's Music for Four, an exercise in noise and tedium premiered by the Arditti Quartet at Wesleyan University (where else?) in the late 1980s. This aleatory work consists of four parts for the instruments of the string quartet, layered together at random intervals by the players, who are supposed to be separated from one another at some distance, to allow the audience to hear each part independently. The Leipzigers opted to set themselves up in the entrance to the museum's main floor, with cellist Matthias Moosdorf in the stairwell by the door, violist Ivo Bauer at the top of the stairs, and violinists Stefan Arzberger and Tilman Büning at opposing ends of the hallway. This decision was sprung on the series director, Michael Wilpers, only a couple hours before the concert, forcing him to arrange hastily for the extra security needed to make it happen.

The performers instructed the audience to move about the entire floor, to hear the music from different angles, and the resulting noise of shuffling feet, cameras clicking, and whispering became, in good Cagean tradition, part of the performance. The sound carried throughout the stone-floored exhibition space, allowing one to stroll about taking in the Freer's exquisite collection of Chinese landscapes of wandering philosophers, Japanese screens and guardian statues, Buddhist statues, calligraphy, and pottery, with the formless blocks of sound, streaked pen-like into the space and then vanishing, providing a sonic backdrop.
A Zen Evening at the Freer (DCist, March 12)


Violinist Tilman Büning, Freer Gallery of Art (photo by Neil Greentree), with Yours Truly at left, wearing scarf

UPDATE:
Joan Reinthaler, Sounds of Silence at the Freer (Washington Post, March 14)

2 comments:

Mark said...

Someone call security!

Charles T. Downey said...

It would have been very Cage-like if I had wrestled the bow out of the violinist's hand, right?