Helen Pridmore and friends to perform the experimental music of John Cage and Earle Brown

Canadian experimental-music soprano Helen Pridmore and friends will perform John Cage’s “Variations II” and Earle Brown’s “December 1952” at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center.

In his 1957 lecture “Experimental Music,” American avant-garde composer John Cage called music “an affirmation of life. Not an attempt to bring order out of chaos, nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living.”

What Cage meant is that just as you can sit outside and stare into space with no purposeful focus, gazing meditatively at all the people, birds, buses flowing by, so too, can you hear, without trying, a broad sweep of surrounding sounds. If we listen openly without judging what we hear, the world’s fleeting, aggregate sounds become protean music in space and time.

An excellent example will take place Thursday, Jan. 18, when Canadian experimental-music soprano Helen Pridmore performs Cage’s 1961 “Variations II” at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center. Pridmore will be joined in her spontaneous vocal interpretation of Cage’s nontraditional, graphic score by two mesmerizing, Seattle-based virtuosos: cellist Lori Goldston and guitarist Mark Hilliard Wilson


Helen Pridmore and Friends

8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18 at Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Avenue North, Seattle.; $5-$15 donation at the door (www.waywardmusic.org)

“’Variations II’ is what we call an ‘instruction score,’” says Pridmore from her home in Regina, Saskatchewan. “Instead of writing down notes, Cage gave directions as to how to create your own piece of music. Each performer is guided by the instructions and comes up with [his or her] own music to perform. Then everyone performs their parts together.”

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If this suggests utter chaos, it’s really more about an unorthodox composition sparking the music of chance. The combination of sounds in any given performance is always unique, because “Variations II” is written for any number and type of instruments and/or ordinary, noisy objects.

It will be fascinating — possibly powerful and moving — to hear what emerges from the joining of separate musical trajectories from an agile, expressive voice, cello and guitar.

“My experience in performing this kind of music is…

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