Back in 1977 (a good year) Rolling Stone commissioned John Cage to write a piece celebrating their move from San Francisco to New York. The result was 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs (first published in Rolling Stone on October 6, 1977): 49 multicolored triangles superimposed on the Hagstrom map of New York, designed and placed through chance operations. The second version, published a year later, is a list of 147 New York street addresses, arranged in 49 groups of three still through chance operations. A manuscript is available online at John Cage unbound, NYPL’s Living Archive.
This iconic piece has inspired many composers/performers/endeavors (we recently talked to Kevin James about a Cage-related project) and the latest is Avant Media’s 49Waltzes.com, a website created as a collaboration between composer Randy Gibson and designer Oscar Henriquez to celebrate John Cage’s 100th birthday.
49Waltzes.com will go live on September 5, 2012—Cage’s 100th birthday—and for an undetermined duration (how Cage-an). In Randy Gibson’s (composer and artistic director of Avant Media) own words:
In the piece’s original spirit, we envision this website as an homage to New York City and ongoing dialogue between audience, performer, and city. As an audience member, you create your own performance of this work by visiting the waltz pages and interacting with the documentation on them. You can experience as much or as little of the sounds of the city as you’d like. As a performer, we invite you to contribute anything created at any of these locations and add it to the ever-growing collection. To us, the actual performance of the piece happens as an individual visits the site and explores it on his/her own time, bringing this composition squarely into the 21st century.
How to participate?
Visit 49waltzes.com and choose a waltz number, a borough, or just click on Chance-determined waltz and let the site choose a waltz for you:
- At any of the three addresses for that particular waltz, listen, perform, record, photograph, draw, or do anything else you can imagine.
- Upload documentation to the web and send a link to firstname.lastname@example.org. This can be a link to a video (i.e. Vimeo, Youtube), some audio (Bandcamp, Soundcloud), an image (Pinterest), etc.
- Include which waltz and address your documentation is from, date and time, your name, and any desired website linkage.
- All submissions will be credited on the site.
Questions, comments, and ideas should be sent to email@example.com.
I was honored to be able to review this site/piece before it went live and I have to say that it is visually stunning, instinctive, and highly functional. One might argue that things have changed since 1977 but a page addresses these changes meticulously. The fact that the content has to be emailed and cannot be embedded directly is a bit of a downer but I am sure that Avant Media will be very responsive and will post content quickly, at least during the first few weeks. The entire experience can be enjoyed for free but the most generous of us will click on the “donate” button to help Avant Media out.
Finally, if you’re not that much into Cage (well, first of all, you must be having a terrible time these days) 49Waltzes.com is also a fantastic way to simply discover New York City so click away…
Thomas Deneuville, the founder and editor of I CARE IF YOU LISTEN, is a French-born composer living in NY. Find him on Twitter: @tonalfreak