Lecture on the Weather
Chelsea Art Museum, October 25, 2008

Photo by Amy Eisinger

New York City premiere

John Cage:
Lecture on the

Friday, October 24, 7:30pm
Saturday, October 25, 7:30pm
Chelsea Art Museum
556 West 22nd Street
$35 / $25 students, seniors, and EMF Subscribers

The final program of Ear to the Earth 2008 was the premiere performance of John Cage's Lecture on the Weather, composed in 1975, commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in observance of the United States Bicentennial, produced here in collaboration with The John Cage Trust at Bard College.

Cage set the tone in a recorded prelude as he stated his political, social, and environmental concerns regarding the direction the country was taking. During the prelude, twelve readers gradually took their seats in two rows back-to-back. Following the prelude, the readers recited excerpts from Henry David Thoreau's writings while a gathering storm emerged. Lightning, in the form of white shapes from Thoreau's workbooks, was flashed on screens surrounding the audience.

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John Cage (1912-1992)
More than any other composer in the 20th century, through his early work with percussion and prepared piano, then with electronics, John Cage extended our concept of music to include all sounds. As early as 1937, he spoke of "electrical instruments which will make available any and all sounds that can be heard ..." Composer, author, visual artist, music advisor to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Cage's life was a path marked by musical milestones, awards and honors, and, eventually, an invaluable legacy of thought and sound.
Laura Kuhn
Artistic director of this performance, Laura Kuhn is a writer, performer, and scholar. She worked with John Cage on many large-scale projects, among them Cage's 'Mesostic' lectures at Harvard in 1988-89 and Europeras 1 & 2. In 1992, shortly after Cage's death, she was among the founders of the John Cage Trust and since then she has served as its executive director. In 2007, the John Cage Trust went into permanent residency at Bard College and Kuhn became the first John Cage Professor of Performance Arts.
Joan Retallack
Dramaturg for this performance, Joan Retallack is a poet, author, and educator, known for Musicage: John Cage in Conversation with Joan Retallack and many essays on Cage and his work, with particular focus on the relation of his experimental attitude to developments in 20th-century science and avant-garde socio-politics. Her writing has been widely recognized in awards and fellowships. She is currently John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of Humanities at Bard College.


Lecture on the Weather is unique in John Cage's work. It is social and political allegory, thoughtful, powerful, and memorable. From the perspective of 1975, the year in which it was composed, it conveys a prescient message of concern for the environment as well as for the social and political inclinations of this country.

The Preface, in this performance read by John Cage in a recording, sets the tone.

John Cage reads an excerpt from the Preface

The performers then read fragments of text from the writings of Henry David Thoreau, interspersed with moments of music, sung or played with instruments, while a gathering storm approaches.


Commissioned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in observance of the United States bicentennial, finished in 1975, Lecture on the Weather was originally intended to be performed by 12 expatriate American men who had left the US during the Vietnam War.

In recent performances, however, women as well as men have been included among the performers. For these evenings, the performers were Eric Beach, Ralph Benko, Merce Cunningham, Mari Kimura, Garry Kvistad, Joan La Barbara, Chris Mann, Josh Quillin, Joan Retallack, Margarete Roeder, Agnieszka Roginska, Mikel Rouse, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting, Jan Williams, Greg Zuber.  Laura Kuhn was artistic director.

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