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The Melting Song Melts

By David Michael Perez

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As one of the most celebrated compositions of avant-garde music, John Cage's 4' 33" (1952) has been appropriated and performed by countless musicians in a myriad of contexts. The underlying concept behind the work is that in a stretch of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of 'silence,' the listener is enveloped in the non-silence of our sonic environment. The deeply imaginative artist Katie Paterson actually produced 'silence' in her own rendition of the work where she projected the composition onto the surface on the moon, never to be returned. As in other works, she used Earth-Moon-Earth (E.M.E.) technique, "a form of radio transmission whereby messages are sent in morse-code from earth, reflected from the surface of the moon, and then received back on earth." The composition was projected from Japan on November 23rd and is the most recent example of Paterson's complexly poetic work. For a forthcoming show at the space ROOM in London, she will exhibit Langjokull, Snefellsjokull, Solheimajokull, a video performance of 3 different field recordings of glaciers in Iceland, played simultaneously on turntables. Using a very sensitive casting technique, the water from those same glaciers was pressed into the very records and then frozen. With the needle catching on the last loop of the 'records,' they are played for nearly two hours until they melt completely; a meditation on what the artist calls 'geological time.' With such elegiac projects, Paterson exhibits Cage's sublime sense of wonder perhaps better than any other contemporary artist.

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