area: Theory / Sound Art / Art Coordination
areaTheory / Sound Art / Art Coordination
recommending institutionfreiraum quartier21 INTERNATIONAL
time periodFebruary 2012 - February 2012
Laura Kuhn enjoys a lively career as a writer, performer, scholar, and arts administrator. She worked during her graduate school years in the early 1980s with the Russian-born infant terrible of American musicology, Nicolas Slonimsky, becoming successor editor, upon his death in 1996, of his acclaimed music dictionaries Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians and Music Since 1900.
In 1986, upon completion of her M.A. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (her thesis a comparative study of the theoretical ideas of German composer Richard Wagner with the montage film theory of the Russian director Sergei Eisenstein), she also began working with the American composer, visual artist, and philosopher John Cage in New York on a variety of large-scale projects, including his six “mesostic” lectures for Harvard University as holder of the Charles Eliot Norton Chair in Poetry (published as I-VI, Harvard University Press, 1990) and his first full-scale opera, Europeras 1 & 2, for the Frankfurt Opera. This work subsequently became the subject of her 1992 doctoral dissertation from UCLA, John Cage’s “Europeras 1 & 2”: The Musical Means of Revolution, which earned her a Ph.D.
From 1991 to 1996 she served as one of ten founding faculty members at Arizona State University West in Phoenix, where she helped to develop and implement an innovative interdisciplinary arts program. Simultaneously, upon Cage’s death in 1992, she worked with Cage’s long-time friends and associates Merce Cunningham, Anne d’Harnoncourt, and David Vaughan to found the John Cage Trust of New York, which she continues to serve as executive director. In this capacity, Kuhn oversees Cage’s legacy as well as a substantial multimedia archive devoted to his life and work. She also travels extensively, lecturing and conducting performance workshops in venues as diverse as the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Warsaw’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Brussels’ “International Arts Festival.”
In 1999 she even prepared a macrobiotic dinner for 80 invited guests to celebrate the first installation of Cage’s celebrated Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake at Belfast’s “Queens Festival”! Other projects under her direction have included a CD-ROM of sampled piano preparations from Cage’s landmark composition, Sonatas & Interludes (1946-48) for use by MIDI keyboard musicians, and the adaptation of Cage’s whimsical 1982 radio play, James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet, to the stage, which in 2000-2001 she directed in seven venues around the world.
In 1999, on a bit of a lark, she also joined the cast (as an onstage singing guest) of Mikel Rouse’s irreverent “talk-show” opera, Dennis Cleveland, last mounted at New York’s Lincoln Center in May 2002. In 2007, the John Cage Trust went into residential placement at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson New York, where Kuhn became the first John Cage Professor of Performance Arts. In celebration, she directed a fully staged version of Cage’s softly political radio piece, Lecture on the Weather (CBC, 1976), with an all-star cast that included Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, John Ashbery, Leon Botstein, John Ralston Saul, John Kelly, and others. She is currently working with the award-winning biographer Ken Silverman toward a collected edition of John Cage’s correspondence for Wesleyan University Press (2012).
Laura Kuhn is guest of honor of the exhibition opening of MEMBRA DISJECTA FOR JOHN CAGE. Wanting to say something about John at freiraum quartier21 INTERNATIONAL and participant of the side program of the show.