Aria (Cage). Bayreuth_

JOHN CAGE

THE SONG BOOKS

Commissioned in 1970 by Cathy Berberian and Simone Rist, the Song Books are a collection of 90 Solos for Voices and the result of one of the most intensely creative periods during Cage’s life, producing an incredibly diverse 317 pages of manuscript.

The diversity of the Song Books can be attributed to the somewhat unusual methods Cage used to help guide the construction of the ninety solos; he would ask very specific questions and receive the answers by tossing coins and consulting the I ching (Chinese oracle book) to determine how many songs would appear in each book (56 and 34), which method of composition would be used to create each song and how each of them should be performed (song, song with electronics, theatre, or theatre with electronics). The result of this approach was that the solos of the Song Books encompass over fifty different methods of composition. The solos themselves were either referred to as relevant or irrelevant to the overall theme of the Song Books which related to a phrase taken from Cage’s diary: “We connect Satie with Thoreau”, Satie being the French composer Erik Satie and Henry David Thoreau, a 19th century American writer, naturalist and anarchist, both of which had significant influence on Cage’s work. If the I ching determined a solo was relevant then it would include a reference to either Satie or Thoreau or both, irrelevant solos did not.

Lore, Greg and Rob have performed the Song Books many times at Non-Classical, Jaqueline du Pre Concert Hall and more recently, Lore and Gred have collaborated with Anna Clementi on performances of The Song Books and  'Theatre Piece' at Ackerstadt Palast in Berlin.