Thomas, John Patrick: “Cage 3: Variants and Interludes” for Solo Percussionist (2011)

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Note on the Music

In 2011, the flutist and visual artist Eberhard Blum asked me to write a solo percussion piece for a chamber music festival honoring the centenary of John Cage’s birth. The piece was premiered in 2012, at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, as part of a program featuring Cage’s 27′ 8.554″ and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Zyklus. Adam Weisman was the percussion soloist.

I wanted to write a piece with a relatively simple structure and surface, taking as a point of departure my admiration for Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano. While looking for musical material, I came upon a four-note chord that could be transposed to spell C-A-G-E. In this way, the piece became a collection of “variants and interludes”: versions of the four-note chord alternating with shifting references to other material.

With Cage 3: Variants and Interludes, I have composed a work that expresses my gratitude to Cage for his liberating influence on artists, opening opportunities from a variety of sources such as electronic sounds, chance procedures, and a fresh awareness of Nature.

The piece is dedicated to the percussionist Jan Williams and the composer Maryanne Amacher, both colleagues of John Cage and friends of mine from my years in Buffalo, New York.

I would like to express my thanks to Jan and Diane Williams for their help in preparing this score, and to Adam Weisman for his brilliant performance at the premiere.

JPT Hamburg, April 2021

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Thomas, John Patrick (*1941)

John Patrick Thomas was born in Denver, Colorado, in 1941, and began his music studies as a member of the American Boychoir in Princeton, New Jersey. At the age of 16, he became a composition student of Darius Milhaud and Charles Jones at the Aspen Music School in Colorado and later studied with Andrew Imbrie and Seymour Shifrin at the University of California in Berkeley. In 1971, he began a concert and opera career in Europe as a countertenor with a special interest in New Music. William Bolcom, David Del Tredici, Morton Feldman, Michael Finnissy, Lukas Foss, Mauricio Kagel, Elisabeth Lutyens, and Krzysztof Penderecki are among the composers who have written for his voice. Thomas was a founding member of The Five Centuries Ensemble, which was known for innovative programming that juxtaposed Early Music and works by contemporary composers. He lives in Hamburg.