Monday, October 7, 2013: 7:45 PM

Renga Games – Cage’d & UnCage’d

Tickets: $12 General, $8 Members
Tickets available at the door only

Part 1: John Cage: Two², performed by Patti Deuter & Joe Lasqo, with dance by Nan Busse

As is well known, John Cage was heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism and Japanese culture in general, and his piece Two² is a remarkable musical re-imagining of the fascinating traditional Japanese linked-verse form, renga (連歌).

With beginnings in the time of the Man’yōshū (万葉集), c. 760 A.D., renga evolved into a very sophisticated game played by connoisseurs who used its 5-line stanzas consisting of a 5-7-5 syllable haiku (俳句) + a 7-7 syllable response in an interplay of group-improvised linked-verse, exchanged among the members of a (usually saké-soaked) poetry party (not unlike the similar game of cadavre exquis played in graphical form by the Paris surrealists).

Japanese poetry fiends took renga to remarkable heights of sophistication, defining an elaborate aesthetic of seasonal symbolism, pivot-stanzas referring to moon and cherry blossoms, and special gold-and-silver dusted papers of different shapes, sizes and colors, corresponding to distinct parts of the symbolic program, to brush their poems onto whilst sipping from cups of saké brought to them sushi-boat-style by special garden streams constructed for this purpose.

Cage’s luminous and serene Two² for 2 pianists uses the 36-stanza kasen (歌仙) form of renga, re-imagining each of the 5-line stanzas as 5-measure musical units, each filled with 5 or 7 piano sound-events which replace the syllables of the original poetic form.

Like many of the other Cage “number pieces”, the timing of the musical events in Two² is not strictly determined, but unlike the “time bracket” approach to indeterminacy found in many of the number pieces, here instead Cage sets up a marvelous game of simple rules to let the two pianists create an interlinked joint control of fluid time, a game in which they can support or subvert each other, creating meditative kaleidoscopic ripples of piano sound which will be uniquely different in each performance.

The 36-stanza the kasen form includes three “moon stanzas” and two “flower stanzas”, which will be interpreted by dancer Nan Busse.

Part 2: New piece, Renga-kai, performed by Renga-9 Ensemble, with dance by Nan Busse

Patti & Joe have invited 7 other musicians to join them in the creation of a new renga-based piece, Renga-kai, for 9 musicians, with emphasis on electronic and percussion instruments. The full ensemble:

Nancy Beckman (shakuhachi, small percussion)
Tom Bickley (winds, electronics/laptop, small percussion)
Nan Busse (dance)
Rachel Condry (clarinets)
Patti Deuter (piano)
Joe Lasqo (laptop, piano & mṛdangam)
Ben Kreith (violin)
Lisa Sangita Moskow (sarod)
Suki O’Kane (percussion)
Dean Santomieri (guitars)

The piece will comprise 36 short duets which will pair each musician with every other and employ the same shifting-time methodology as Cage’s Two².