The late, revered and iconoclastic 20th century composer John Cage once suggested that both listener and artist "use art not as self expression, but as self alteration." A heady concept, that, and one that Cage pursued by employing silence, "found sound" and the manipulation of sonic environment. In the process, Cage reimagined just what constitutes music, leading to his oft-quoted notions that "All sound is music" and "Everything we do is music." Cage's influence is difficult to overestimate, and can be found in the world of contemporary classical composition and pop music – via artists like Brian Eno, David Byrne and Radiohead – alike.
At 8 tonight, Cage's final opera, the collage-based piece "Europa 5," will be performed inside the Burchfield Penney Art Center (1300 Elmwood Ave.).
"Europa 5" was conceived by Cage as a "portable" opera, employing two singers, a pianist, a 78-RPM Victrola, prerecorded tapes, a radio and a silent television. The piece has never been performed the same way twice – each of the singers tackles five arias of their own choosing from the standard opera repertoire, while the pianist peruses six opera transcriptions.
Tonight's performance will feature soprano Martha Herr, lighting director Tom Kustusiak, tape operator Don Metz, pianist Amy Williams, Victrola operator Jan Williams and tenor Robert Zimmerman. Tickets are $5 for members and $15 for non-members. Visit www.burchfieldpenney.org.