[ about ] [ program ] [ reservations ] [ directions ] [ article ] [ nSFTMC ]

Williams [re]Mix[ed] (1997-2001) 19'00"
for octophonic computer music system,
based on John Cage's Williams Mix (1951-53), for eight magnetic tapes

The Theme Restored
Six Short Variations
A-city sounds, B-country sounds,
C-electronic sounds, D-manually produced sounds,
E-wind produced sounds, F-small sounds
The Nth Realization

The process of creating the original realization of Williams Mix, as Cage explained, involved the precise cutting/splicing of recorded sounds to create eight separate reel-to-reel, monaural, 15-ips magnetic tape masters for the 4-minute 15-second, octophonic tape piece. The 192-page score is, as Cage referred to it, a kind of "dressmaker's pattern--it literally shows where the tape shall be cut, and you lay the tape on the score itself." Cage explained further in a published transcript of a 1985 recorded conversation with author Richard Kostelanetz that "...someone else could follow that recipe, so to speak, with other sources than I had to make another mix." Later in the conversation, Kostelanetz observed, "But, as you pointed out, even though you made for posterity a score of Williams Mix for others to realize, no one's ever done it," to which Cage replied, "But it's because the manuscript is so big and so little known." (Kostelanetz, Cage Explained, Schirmer, 1996, pp. 72-75)

Intrigued by Cage's open invitation to "...follow that recipe..." I embarked on a project in summer, 1997, to create just such a new realization of and variations on the 192-page score of John Cage's second tape piece, Williams Mix (1951-53), the first known octophonic, surround-sound tape composition. Presignifying the development of algorithmic composition, granular synthesis, and sound diffusion, Williams Mix was the first piece completed in the Project for Music for Magnetic Tape (1951-53), established in New York by Cage and funded by architect Paul Williams. Involved as collaborators were, first, pianist David Tudor, then composers Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolfe, and electronic music pioneers Louis and Bebe Barron, among others. The score for the piece was completed in October, 1952, as well as much of realization itself for the eight magnetic tapes, finally completed by Cage and Earle Brown on January 16, 1953.

In early 1998 the John Cage Trust provided me with a color-xerographic copy of the 192-page score, as well as associated sketches and commentary by Cage on the compositional process involved in the original (and only) realization for eight magnetic tapes. The Trust subsequently provided me with digital tape copies of the eight earliest extant generation, reel-to-reel masters of the piece from the Trust's Archive of Cage's works. With the score and tapes I began the restoration and analysis of the precise relation of the recorded sound events with their I Ching-determined parameters in the score. Out of this first, two-year phase came the restoration of the original eight tracks of tape, transferred to the digital, octophonic medium for playback on either computer or eight-track digital tape recorder. This newly restored Williams Mix is heard here, in fact, as the first movement, The Theme Restored of my Williams [re]Mix[ed]. Since first starting my project I have, meanwhile, been collecting new sounds for the new, recorded library of nearly 600 sounds (the actual number of different recorded sounds used in the Cage score is 350, their iterations totaling 2,128), according to Cage's six sound categories of city, country, electronic, manually produced, wind produced and small sounds.

The final phase of my project has been the design and implementation of an interactive computer music program I have named the Williams [re]Mix[er]. It's functionality is modeled on Cage's I Ching compositional processes, extrapolated and applied from my years-long analyses of Cage's score, sketches, and tapes for Williams Mix, as well as his writings and recorded interviews about the piece and his compositional method. In fact, the Six Short Variations and The Nth Realization heard here are the very latest, computer-generated output of the Williams [re]Mix[er]. What took Cage and his collaborators months and months of recordings, coin-tosses, notation, and thousands of small pieces of tape spliced together to complete the first realization of the Williams Mix score is accomplished--after collecting the recordings and interacting with the program--in only a few minutes of computation time. Indeed, the default settings I have used in designing the Williams [re]Mix[er] are Cage's own parameters for the piece's structure and morphology of sound/silence events. On the last page of the score for Williams Mix, Cage inscribed, "(4 min. 15 sec. +) End 1st Part. N.Y.C. Oct. '52 Splicing finished Jan. 16, 1953." Dare I imagine that John's spirit is slyly laughing now, asking the oracle, "Is this the 2nd Part ?"

Commissioned by the International Institute for Electroacoustic Music, Bourges, France, with sponsorship and support from the John Cage Trust and C.F. Peters Corp.

John Cage (born Los Angeles, 5 September 1912; died New York, 12 August 1992)
left Pomona College early to travel in Europe (1930-31), then studied with Cowell in New York (1933-4) and Schönberg in Los Angeles (1934): his first published compositions, in a rigorous atonal system of his own, date from this period. In 1937 he moved to Seattle to work as a dance accompanist, and there in 1938 he founded a percussion orchestra; his music now concerned with filling units of time with ostinatos (First Construction (in Metal), 1939). He also began to use electronic devices (variable-speed turntables in lmaginary Landscape no.1, 1939) and invented the 'prepared piano', placing diverse objects between the strings of a grand piano in order to create an effective percussion orchestra under the control of two hands. He moved to San Francisco in 1939, to Chicago in 1941 and back to New York in 1942, all the time writing music for dance companies (notably for Merce Cunningham), nearly always for prepared piano or percussion ensemble. There were also major concert works for the new instrument: A Book of Music (1944) and Three Dances (1945) for two prepared pianos, and the Sonatas and Interludes (1948) for one.

During this period Cage became interested in Eastern philosophies, especially in Zen, from which he gained a treasuring of non-intention. Working to remove creative choice from composition, he used coin tosses to determine events (Music of Changes for piano, 1951), wrote for 12 radios (Imaginary Landscape no.4, also 1951) and introduced other indeterminate techniques. His 4'33" (1952) has no sound added to that of the environment in which it is performed; the Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1958) is an encyclopedia of indeterminate notations. Yet other works show his growing interest in the theatre of musical performance (Water Music, 1952, for pianist with a variety of non-standard equipment) and in electronics (Imaginary Landscape no.5 for randomly mixed recordings, 1952; Cartridge Music for small sounds amplified in live performance, 1960), culminating in various large-scale events staged as jamborees of haphazardness (HPSCHD for harpsichords, tapes etc, 1969). The later output is various, including indeterminate works, others fully notated within a very limited range of material, and pieces for natural resources (plants, shells). Cage also appeared widely in Europe and the USA as a lecturer and performer, having an enormous influence on younger musicians and artists; he wrote several books.

Larry Austin (Oklahoma/Texas, USA, 1930)
was educated in Texas and California, studying with Canadian composer Violet Archer (UNT), French composer Darius Milhaud (Mills), and American composer Andrew Imbrie (UCB). He also enjoyed extended associations in California in the 'sixties with composers John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and David Tudor.

Highly successful as a composer for traditional ensembles, Austin's works have been performed and recorded by the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, the National Symphony orchestras, as well as many others in North America and Europe. Since 1964, he has composed more than seventy works incorporating electroacoustic and computer music media: combinations of tape, instruments, voices, orchestra, live-electronics and real-time computer processing, as well as solo audio and video tape compositions. Austin has received numerous commissions, grants and awards, his works widely performed and recorded, including the 1994 premiere recording of Austin's complete realization of Charles Ives's transcendental Universe Symphony (1911-51), performed at the 1995 Warsaw Autumn Festival by the National Philharmonic of Warsaw. In 1996, Austin was awarded the prestigious Magistere (Magisterium) prize/title in the 23rd International Electroacoustic Music Competition, Bourges, France, for his work BluesAx (1995-96), for saxophonist and tape/electronics, and for his work and influential leadership in electroacoustic music genres through the past thirty years. Austin was the first US composer to receive the Magistere.

From 1958 to 1972 Austin was a member of the music faculty of the University of California, Davis, active there as a conductor, performer, and composer. There, in 1966, he co-founded, edited, and published the seminal new music journal, SOURCE: Music of the Avant Garde. Subsequently, he served on the faculties of the University of South Florida, 1972-78, and the University of North Texas, 1978-96, founding and directing extensivfe computer music studios at both universities. In 1986 he co-founded and continues as president of CDCM: Consortium to Distribute Computer Music, producer of the CDCM Computer Music Series on Centaur Records, with twenty-five compact disc volumes released since 1988. On the Board of Directors of the International Computer Music Association, Austin served as its president, 1990-94.

Retiring from his 38-year academic career in 1996, Austin resides with his wife Edna at their home in Denton, Texas. Working in and out of his Denton studio, gaLarry, Austin continues his active composing career with commissions, tours, performances, recordings, and lecturing, anticipating future extended composer residencies in New York, Tokyo, and Europe.

about nSFTMC