Japan Society to Present ‘Cage Shock’ Celebrating Connection Between John Cage and Japan

By Chris Ruel

John Cage had conceived a project titled “Noh-opera: Or the Complete Musical Works of Marcel Duchamp,” which remained unrealized. Influenced by Marcel Duchamp’s “Manual of Instructions” for the infamous peephole artwork “Étant donnés,” The composer had envisioned a significant premiere in Japan. However, it never came to be.

On Dec. 7, 2023, Japan Society will present “Cage Shock,” a concert curated by Tomomi Adachi in collaboration with New York’s International Contemporary Ensemble. The performance features the works of Cage and Toshi Ichiyanagi. Experimental sound artists Tania Caroline Chen and Victoria Shen will also perform.

Composer and performer Adachi reimagined this project as “Noh-opera/Noh-tation,” aiming to merge Western opera and Noh traditions. Adachi employs AI-generated music inspired by Zen Buddhist koans.

The upcoming world premiere will feature Gelsey Bell, known for her contributions to experimental vocalism, and Wakako Matsuda, a traditional Japanese Noh actor from Kanazawa, Japan. The performance will also include five accomplished wind instrumentalists from the International Contemporary Ensemble: flutist Isabel Lepanto Gleicher, oboist James Austin Smith, clarinetist Campbell MacDonald, bassoonist Rebekah Heller, and trombonist Michael Lormand.

The program features Cage’s “Haiku,” “Aria,” “Solo for Piano with Fontana Mix, 0’00”” and Ichiyanagi’s “Sapporo.”

“Noh-opera/Noh-tation” is part of Japan Society’s ongoing celebration of the connection between Cage and Japan. Cage’s 1962 tour of Japan highlighted the resonance between his compositions and Japanese music, establishing him as a pivotal artistic figure in the East.

Japan Society’s Artistic Director Yoko Shioya stated in an official press release, “If John Cage had not encountered Japanese culture, there would have been no John Cage!”

The event will be preceded by a lecture from Cage Scholar James Pritchett and followed by a private gathering for artists and members.