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John Cage: Song Books, with Joan La Barbara, stage / music director

Joan La Barbara

Course Description

John Cage: Song Books is a performance-based course  for singers, instrumentalists, actors, composers, and those working with electronics. Song Books (composed in 1970) is a large-scale theater-work consisting of 90 “Solos” which is put together by the performers who choose which Solos they will perform and map them over an agreed-upon duration timeline.The cycle  includes: songs, songs with electronics, directions for a theatrical performance, and directions for a theatrical performance with electronics. The Songs  can be performed on their own or other indeterminate  pieces by  John Cage. 

 In addition to conventional musical notation, we will cover aspects of interpreting graphic scoring during the course, text-based instructions, entrance and exit movements and stage directions. Cage indicated specific “Solos” to be altered electronically which poses a challenge for real-time processing at specific microphone stations. The class will culminate in a public performance of John Cage´s  Song Books.

The course fee (340 euro) includes participation in the course, open lessons and workshops, and free entrance to all of the festival concerts.

 JOAN LA BARBARA’s career as a composer/performer/soundartist/actor explores the human voice as a multi-faceted instrument expanding traditional boundaries in developing a unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques: multiphonics, circular singing, ululation and glottal clicks that have become her “signature sounds”, influencing several generations of composers and singers. Creating works for multiple voices, chamber ensembles, music theater, orchestra and interactive technology, her work in  U.S and Europe include amongst others:  Foundation for Contemporary Arts John Cage Award (2016); Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition (2004); DAAD Artist-in-Residency in Berlin; 7 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in Music Composition.

In the early part of her career, she performed and recorded with Steve Reich, Philip Glass and jazz artists Jim Hall, Hubert Laws, Enrico Rava and arranger Don Sebesky, developing her own unique vocal/instrumental sound. Hailed as “one of the great vocal virtuosas of our time”(San Francisco Examiner), she premiered landmark compositions written for her by noted American composers Morton Feldman, Morton Subotnik, Robert Ashley, Philip Glass and John Cage. 

In addition to the internationally-acclaimed “Three Voices for Joan La Barbara by Morton Feldman”, “Joan La Barbara Singing through John Cage” and “Joan La Barbara/Sound Paintings” , she has recorded amongst others  for A&M Horizon, Centaur, Deutsche Grammophon, Elektra-Nonesuch, Mode, Music & Arts, New World, Sony, Virgin, Voyager and Wergo. 

Educated at Syracuse and New York Universities and Tanglewood/Berkshire Music Center, she gained compositional tools as an apprentice with the numerous composers with whom she has worked for over four decades. Current studies include advanced scene study work with Michael Beckett and Austin Pendleton at HB Studio. La Barbara co-founded the performing composers ensemble Ne(x)tworks and is a Director of MATA. La Barbara was Artistic Director of the multi-year Carnegie Hall series, “When Morty met John”, focusing on the music of John Cage, Morton Feldman and the New York School.She participated in many performances of Song Books with Cage over a 20-year period and most recently performed this work with The San Francisco Symphony at Carnegie Hall and New World Symphony with Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and Director Yuval Sharon. Joan La Barbara is a composer and publisher member of ASCAP .

Profile of Participants:

Age limit: Born after 1.7.1988 

Course language: English

Documents to be submitted (all documents can be submitted or filled out online):

Application form 

Links to two recent examples of your performance (sound files or video)

Short motivation letter including   a list of  pieces from Song Books wished to be  worked on during the course and the final public concert. 

Curriculum vitae in English or Finnish (maximum of two pages)