News > SPOLETO 2017 REVIEW: Music in Time | Lecture on the Weather

MUSIC

by Matt Dobie

image by Julia Lynn Photography

John Cage’s Lecture on the Weather was the last installment of the Music in Time Series at this year’s Spoleto Festival USA, though some may not even call it music. Heck, I don’t really consider it music, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a fantastic experience.

The piece begins with the voice of John Cage over the stereo speakers, revealing his reasoning for creating Lecture on the Weather. If you’ve never heard a John Cage speech, I highly recommend looking one up online. Not only is he a genius and an artist in every sense of the word, but his voice is warm and welcoming, conversationally introducing insights and concepts like an old friend or a comforting grandfather, and not without a sense of humor.

His introduction ends and in place of his voice comes the sound of a rainstorm. The piece utilizes 12 performers, each with a clipboard. As the storm audio pitter-patters and thunders away, the performers walk throughout the crowd, stopping at various points, and reading simultaneously from their clipboards. They’re reading segments of the writings of Henry David Thoreau. The theatre is nearly pitch black, so all you’re left with is this intriguing soundscape of voices and rain and thunder. I felt compelled to close my eyes for most of the performance, picking up the various pieces of Thoreau along the way. It was quite the unique way to experience these powerful texts, absorbing only what you can hear, while a cacophony of words

I felt compelled to close my eyes for most of the performance, picking up the various pieces of Thoreau along the way. It was quite the unique way to experience these powerful texts, absorbing only what you can hear, while a cacophony of words is blistering all around you.

As the storm intensifies, a visual aspect is introduced. A screen at the front of the room mimics lightning by flashing white—sometimes the entire screen, sometimes simple two-dimensional drawings.

It was an experience unlike any I’ve had before, continuously thought provoking without being weighted down by an obvious, straightforward approach. Thoreau was an American gem, and whether you’re familiar with his work or not, it seems impossible to not be moved by the ideas he introduced.

Lecture on the Weather provides a one of a kind glimpse into the minds of two of America’s all-time brilliant thinkers—Thoreau and Cage. It’s unorthodox and not for everybody. I know some people in the audience didn’t enjoy it as much as me. But for those with an open mind and a desire to learn and be moved, there is nothing quite like this piece of American art.


 

SPOLETO FESTIVAL USA
May 26 – June 11, 2017 | Charleston, SC
spoletousa.org

 

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Posted on June 13, 2017 by Matt Mill.

Categories: Performing Arts, Review

Tags: John Cage, Music In Time, Spoleto Festival Usa

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