In celebration of John Cage and his relationship with Scottish composer Eddie McGuire that led to the commissioning of Scottish Circus, an ensemble of students and staff from the University music department, along with special guests, will perform works by Cage and a new work inspired by Cage. The event will take place at 5.30pm on 1st June 2018, in the University Concert Hall, where the original work was premiered in September 1990 at the Musica Nova Festival.
The three pieces to be performed are an exploration of space, silence, and interaction between unique musical sequences. The event will begin with a performance of Cage’s famed 4’33” (1952). No intentional sounds are made throughout the work’s duration (three movements with durations judged according to Cage's instructions), placing a particular emphasis on sounds which exist naturally in the environment where the piece is performed. Much has been written about Cage’s ideology regarding silence, primarily the notion that it actually does not exist, and that ears must be opened to recognise the sounds which are always present. This will be performed by Eddie McGuire, Fergus Hall, Eilidh Forsyth and Music Head of Subject, Professor William Sweeney.
This will be followed by a performance of Cage’s Scottish Circus (1990) by staff and students of the University of Glasgow, which was commissioned by McGuire and Scottish traditional ensemble, the Whistlebinkies, premiering in Glasgow in 1990. The piece lasts for 30 minutes and is composed for variable number of musicians. Players continuously superimpose short excerpts of Scottish traditional music, such as reels, jigs, hornpipes or Gaelic songs, wandering as if strolling players in a ‘circus’.
The event will end with a new work, New Scottish Circus (2018), which follows a similar approach to the original Scottish Circus but this time, the music will reflect the cultural diversity of those in the ensemble. The University of Glasgow Music subject area represents a variety of nationalities within both the staff and student body, and this extends also to the University as a whole. This new piece will celebrate our differing cultures and nationalities and is one in which, we believe, Cage would have been proud to have been involved.