Inspired by the contemporary and often outlandish works of John Cage, AURA, the Moores School of Music’s contemporary music ensemble performed “Caged In” on Monday night.
Directed by Moores’ associate professor of composition Rob Smith, the show included various works by Cage and the artists he inspired, like Ida Gotkovsky, Paul Rudy and Kirk O’Riordan. Cage was not only a musician, but also a philosopher, renowned for the abstract belief that music was more than just defined notes and rhythm but arguably any sort of sound. AURA made this idea quite clear in its awe-inspiring performance of many complex pieces.
AURA opened with “The Wonderful Widow of 18 Springs,” a duet by Cage, featuring music composition alumnus Samuel Hunter on vocals and music performance senior Matthew Turner on percussion. The wildly abstruse piece set the mood for the rest of the evening.
The rest of the night’s music included odd pieces like “Radio Music,” which consisted of 14 different boom boxes being tuned and adjusted during the entire piece. What sounded like mind numbing noise was subtly complex. “Radio Music” had the stereos split by frequency and silences notated by the “maximum amplitude.”
The next act unveiled “Story,” also by Cage, and the second movement of “Living Room Music.” The work illustrated the power of the spoken word — four performers recited the same paragraph of text but changed the way in which they did so: changing the pronunciation, enunciation, volume and arrangement of words.
Though the piece sounded comedic, AURA succeeded in honoring Cage’s work. Throughout the performance, AURA’s ability to play incredibly syncopated and difficult music was astounding. Every element of the performance seemed deliberate, including the dark chords and cacophony of sounds.
The night ended with “Ductus Figuratus,” a concerto for saxophone, and a chamber ensemble written in honor of saxophone performer and professor Eugene Rousseau. Dan Gelok, affiliate artist in saxophone at the Moores School, performed outrageously difficult music and reached notes not normally possible on an alto saxophone with a special technique.
AURA played sent Cage’s message to the audience with superb style. The show was hosted on Cage’s birthday in honor of his musical expertise. With that in mind, AURA successfully paid homage to a legendary figure in abstract musical works.