As you already know, our building was once home to the Pasadena Art Museum. But did you know the institution was home to more than great visual art?
The Encounters Series, held at the Pasadena Art Museum and Caltech from 1964 to 1973, was neither a lecture series nor a concert series. Director Lenard Stein brought nearly every important contemporary composer to Pasadena through this series, including John Cage, Harry Partch, and Arnold Schoenberg. In 1965, the Encounters season opened with a legendary evening as Cage was interviewed by David Tudor. Cage would again appear in the 1969 season, the first season in the Pasadena Art Museum’s new building on Colorado.
John Cage was a leading figure in American postwar avant-garde music, and is perhaps most famous for his piece 4’33”, which is performed by the musicians simply being present for four minutes and 33 seconds, allowing ambient sounds to become the score. Many of Cage’s works incorporate stretches of time like this, along with other concepts like the prepared piano (in which the piano’s strings or hammers would be modified to produce new sounds) or the use of nontraditional percussion with objects like branches or pebbles. His work was heavily influenced by the idea of chance after he was given a copy of the I Ching, the Chinese classic, when it was first translated into English in the early 1950s. This was not the only Asian influence on his work; in the 1940s his exchanges with an Indian musician and the increasing profile of Buddhism in the U.S. led him to see music as an observation of one’s surroundings and nature, rather than an attempt to alter or control them.
Cage was born in 1912, making this his centannial year (he died in 1992). In celebration, Southwest Chamber Music is presenting a series of performances of his work which began this past weekend. This Sunday, March 11, Southwest Chamber Music will come to Pacific Asia Museum and perform pieces including Branches and Radio Music. Pacific Asia Museum members enjoy discounted tickets, which can be purchased at ww.swmusic.org or at the door. ~CM