HPSCHD, John Cage’s legendary Gesamtkunstwerk is a mass media orgy, considered by many as the wildest, largest, and loudest musical composition of the 20th century. Its very nature is inextricable from the tumult of the year it premiered, 1969. ISSUE Project Room presents this spectacle on May 3rd and 4th in collaboration with Electronic Music Foundation and Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, as part of the 2013 Darmstadt Essential Repertoire series. This new production features composer Joel Chadabe, who has directed performances of HPSCHD throughout the world, as artistic advisor. Keyboardist Neely Bruce, who performed at the 1969 premiere, plays in the harpsichord ensemble. Artist Bradley Eros curates an extensive body of film and video artists to interpret the immersive visual score.
Performances take place at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center on Friday, May 3 from 5pm to 10pm and onSaturday, May 4 from 1pm until 6pm. The audience is invited to arrive and leave at any time during the performance and refreshments are available courtesy of Cloud Coffee. Kayrock will be screenprinting Tshirts live based on the original HPSCHD design by Gary Viskupic (1969).
A collaboration between Cage and the electronic composer Lejaren Hiller, HPSCHD is known for being Cage’s first and most significant foray into utilizing the computer to execute the chance operations of the I-Ching. The inspiration for the piece came from a commission for harpsichord, an instrument disliked by Cage. Starting with material from Mozart’s Dice Game, Cage and Hiller plucked from virtuosic repertory by Beethoven, Gottschalk, and Busoni (among others). Hiller’s programs in the FORTRAN computer language, named ICHING, DICEGAME, and HPSCHD reshaped this material for the scores. Hiller also produced multiple tapes of microtonal electronic sounds to be played simultaneously with the harpsichords. The event premiered in May of 1969 at the University of Illinois’s Assembly Hall, within a visual environment of hundreds of projected images and films, many supplied by NASA. Thousands came to experience the event. In retrospect, HPSCHD can be described as Cage’s prescient response to Marshall McCluhan, Happenings, the moon landing, the history of Western Classical music, hippy utopianism, Buckminster Fuller, and perhaps even a prediction of the computer age and its effects on human consciousness. Presented on the heels of the Cage centenary, Darmstadt’s presentation of HPSCHD offers a 21st century audience the opportunity to reflect on how this totality of ideas has transformed in the 44 years since its inception.