About the John Cage Trust

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The John Cage Trust was established in 1993 as a not-for-profit institution whose mission is to gather together, organize, preserve, disseminate, and generally further the work of the late American composer, John Cage. Its founding trustees were Merce Cunningham, Artistic Director of the Cunningham Dance Company, Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum, and David Vaughan, Archivist of the Cunningham Dance Foundation, all long-time Cage friends and associates. Laura Kuhn, who from 1986 to 1992 worked directly with John Cage, is both a founding trustee and ongoing Executive Director. In 2008, d’Harnoncourt was replaced by Margarete Roeder, long-time gallerist to both Cage and Cunningham; in 2009, Cunningham was replaced by Melissa Harris, editor-in-chief of Aperture; and in 2019, Vaughan was replaced by Trevor Carlson, former Director of the Cunningham Dance Foundation. In 2013, the John Cage Trust officially joined the ranks of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., at which time Robert Martin, Director of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, joined the board. Effective June 2019, Martin officially retired, and new Special Trustees from Bard College are being sought.

The John Cage Trust functions as both a business concern and an archive and repository for Cage’s work. In the latter capacity, it maintains sizeable collections of music, text, and visual art manuscripts. It also houses extensive audio, video, and print libraries, which are continually expanding, as well as a substantial permanent collection of visual art works by John Cage, which are made available for exhibitions worldwide. The Trust is open year-round by appointment to visitors to assist ongoing work involving, in diverse ways, the legacy of John Cage. As Executive Director, Kuhn travels extensively, lecturing on topics relating to Cage’s life and work and conducting performance workshops. In 1998, simultaneous with a performance of the Cage/Cunningham collaboration, Ocean, and the premiere installation of Cage’s Roaratorio at the Queens Festival in Belfast, she was called upon to cook a post-performance macrobiotic meal for some 80 people in its theater cafe! That same year, she delivered a series of lectures at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where Cage’s work was not well known.

The John Cage Trust also works closely with others in the promotion and placement of Cage’s work. In 1993, after an extensive inventory was made and a catalog prepared, the John Cage Music Manuscript Collection, numbering some 28,000 pages, was acquired by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. And the John Cage Trust works closely with Northwestern University’s Music Library, which houses the John Cage Collection (with extensive correspondence, the Notations Project, scores, scrapbooks, and ephemera). The John Cage Trust works with Cage’s long-time publisher, C.F. Peters, in promoting new performances and recordings and providing licensing and rights. It also works closely with the Margarete Roeder Gallery in New York City and Crown Point Press in San Francisco in the placement of Cage’s visual art works in museums and private collections around the world. And, for nearly two decades, it worked intimately with the Cunningham Dance Foundation to assist its continued use of live music for dance, a trademark tradition initiated by Cage and Cunningham in 1953 with the formation of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Upon Cunningham’s death in 2009, Kuhn was appointed one of four founding board members of the newly-formed Merce Cunningham Trust.

In 1999, the organization embarked on a number of progressive, proactive projects designed to contribute to the continuing relevance of Cage’s work. A particularly interesting example, from 2002, involved the sampling of prepared piano sounds that were subsequently released by Big Fish Audio in a format suitable for MIDI systems. This project, initiated with Cage’s landmark composition for the instrument, Sonatas & Interludes (1946-48), extended the life of both the prepared piano itself and Cage’s significant body of works written for the instrument. In 2000, the John Cage Trust co-produced a theatrical realization of Cage’s whimsical 1982 radio play, James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet, utilizing a sound score constructed from materials in its archives by the New York composer, Mikel Rouse. This work, which Kuhn directed, was seen in venues around the world, including Edinburgh, Berlin, Dublin, Perth, and California. In 2007, the John Cage Trust also produced a theatrical realization, again under Kuhn’s direction, of Cage’s Lecture on the Weather, seen live at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, and, in 2008, at the Chelsea Art Museum, co-sponsored by the Electronic Music Foundation. In 2009 an installation version of the Bard College performance was also featured in The Anarchy of Silence, a significant art exhibition at the Museu d’Art Contemporani in Barcelona, curated by Julia Robinson.

As a natural by-product of its on-going archival restoration endeavors, involving the digital transfer of works in various media, the first decade of the new millennium saw a number of co-produced audio releases by the John Cage Trust with Mode Records of Cage’s own text readings. The first, John Cage Performs Cage: The Text Pieces I (The Artist Pieces), features a lengthy, little-known work, Series re Morris Graves, in which Cage recounts in both words and song his formative experiences while living in Seattle, Washington. Two other works are included: Art is Either a Complaint or Do Something Else and What You Say, both utilizing Cage’s innovative “mesostic” poetry form and based on the words of his long-time friend and associate, Jasper Johns. The John Cage Trust also works closely with publishers who have a long-standing commitment to Cage publishers, such as Wesleyan University Press, who in the first years of the new millennium released Cage’s Anarchy, as well as the paperback edition of his important six-part lecture as holder of the Charles E. Norton Chair in Poetry at Harvard University, I-VI. In 2010, the John Cage Trust began a three-year annual publication of the John Cage Book of Days, an intimate daily calendar filled with important Cage dates and pithy quotations, and in 2015 we saw the first-ever publication of all eight parts of Cage’s Diary: How to Improve the World (You’ll Only Make Matters Worse) by Siglio Press; in 2019 a paperback edition will be published that also includes facsimiles of Cage’s incomplete Part IX, reproduced from manuscripts held in the archives of the John Cage Trust. In 2016, after years of work, Wesleyan University Press published The Selected Letters of John Cage, edited by Laura Kuhn.

In 2000, the John Cage Trust initiated work with Munich’s Schirmer Mosel Verlag on the “John Cage Catalogue Raisonné,“ the first volume of which, John Cage Ryoanji, became available in time for John Cage’s centennial year, 2012. That same year www.johncage.org was launched, the mammoth undertaking of Larson Associates built on the work of Andre Chaudron, whose www.johncage.info had served Cage enthusiasts for well over a decade. In addition to a fully integrated and searchable database of critical aspects of the holdings of the John Cage Trust, the site features many additional components, including “Kuhn’s Blog,” “Indeterminacy,” and “The John Cage Folksonomy” – this last a roster of some 6,000 anecdotally annotated Cage friends & acquaintances, to which the public is invited to contribute. And in 2017, John Cage’s Personal Library was fully catalogued and annotated and is now readily available on the site.

In 2007, the John Cage Trust went into residential placement at Bard College, where Kuhn was appointed the first John Cage Professor of Performance Arts. That inaugural year, two commemorative concerts were given: the afore-mentioned Lecture on the Weather, with an all-star cast that included Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, John Ashbery, John Ralston Saul, and others, and “Nexus Live!”, a full evening of percussion works given by the celebrated ensemble. In 2009, the first John Cage Trust-sponsored symposium was given with “John Cage at Bard College,” with participation from Cage enthusiasts resident at Bard College. In 2013, the John Cage Trust became a permanent member of the Bard community, and in 2018 the organization moved into a new building on campus, known familiarly as The Wilson House, significantly expanding its on-site archives and working space.

The year 2019 marks the Merce Cunningham Centennial, and on April 16, Cunningham’s 100th birthday, the John Cage Trust hosted a macrobiotic dinner party for three dozen guests who were able to view live streams of “Night of 100 Solos,” a Merce Cunningham Trust extravaganza that took place that day and night in London, New York, and Los Angeles. Later this year the John Cage Trust will stage the first Cage/Cunningham Music & Dance Circus at Bard College’s marvelous Spiegeltent, and still later will host the second annual John Cage Mycology Weekend at Bard, with a guided mushroom foray in our extraordinary natural environment as well as a day-long symposium. Watch for news on both!

Archives and Business

Laura Kuhn, Director
John Cage Trust
1309 Annandale Road
Red Hook, New York 12571
(001)(845) 752-2500
(001)(917) 293-8009 (mobile)


Useful Contacts:

Edition Peters Group

Stefan Conradi
C. F. Peters Ltd & Co. KG
(011)(69)(49) 0341 9897 9231

James Joslin
Peters Edition Limited
(011)(44) 020 7553 4034

New York
Gene Caprioglio
C.F. Peters Corporation
(001)(718) 416-7822

Margarete Roeder
Margarete Roeder Gallery
(001)(212) 925-6098

Dave McMullin, American Music Collection
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
(001)(212) 870-1677

Greg MacAyeal, Curator of the Music Library, Distinctive Collections
Northwestern University Library
(001)(847) 491-4233

Ray Kass, Director
Mountain Lake Workshop
(001)(540) 818-0299

Kathan Brown, Director
Crown Point Press
(001)(415) 974-6274

Suzanna Tamminen, Editor in Chief
Wesleyan University Press
(001)(860) 685-7711

Lisa Pearson, Publisher
Siglio Press
(001)(310) 857-6935