C’dale’s Sheehan to play John Cage event in England
CARBONDALE – Carbondale pianist Laurel Sheehan admits the music of the late composer John Cage can seem a little strange, even to the most seasoned of classical music connoisseurs.But it’s her lifelong love for the work of the California-born composer that will take her to the University of Huddersfield in England Saturday to perform at a one-day conference honoring Cage’s work.A day isn’t all that long in the world of John Cage.”Most recently, Cage was noted for composing a piece that will take over 600 years to play,” noted Sheehan, a Johns Hopkins University-trained concert pianist since 1980, and founder of the Carbondale-based Mountain Laurel Music Preparatory.
One of the more famous Cage pieces, “4′ 33″,” composed in 1952, has pianists sitting at a piano not playing for a full four minutes, 33 seconds.”Both he and his followers were considered kind of weird,” Sheehan said. “Every one of these festivals is always a marathon kind of thing.”Sheehan will be playing Cage’s “Two2” with longtime performing partner Rob Haskins, who teaches at the University of New Hampshire. The piece lasts 1 hour, 20 minutes.The pair performed the Canadian premier of “Two2” in 1989 in London, Ontario, and usually get together to perform it about once a year at John Cage festivals around North America. This will be their first trip to England, however.
Cage festivals, whether they last one day or longer, invite some of the top authorities on the composer’s work to play, listen and talk about his music. Only four other pieces will be performed at Saturday’s event, one beginning the previous day and lasting into the next day. There will also be a keynote address by William Brooks of the University of York.”There’s a tendency to think that the music is random, but it’s not,” Sheehan said. “Although there is great freedom in his work, and it gives the performer some creative license, the notes are very specific and must be followed a certain way.”Cage’s music is known for attracting people who want to do more inward, very quiet work,” she said. “It’s not really music for entertainment, but more for the meditative aspects.”Sheehan had the opportunity to meet and work with Cage in Buffalo in 1990, two years before his death. Over the years, Cage did some work using dancers and other artistic impressions around his work. But mostly it’s been about the inwardness of the music itself.
Sheehan, who also trained with Fran Zarubik, dean of Peabody Preparatory from 1991-95, moved to Carbondale from Baltimore in 1995 after teaching for several years at John Hopkins University.Mountain Laurel Music uses a curriculum based on Johns Hopkins research. She also created the local program Classikids in 2003, which introduces children of all ages to classical and folk music.Sheehan said she would like to bring Cage’s music to the Valley as well. She would like to do a performance at the 2007 winter concert series at the Snowmass Chapel.”When I first moved here, I had the opportunity to teach on their Steinway Grand,” she said. “It would be a beautiful venue for Cage’s work.”Sheehan will also take another piece of Carbondale along when she performs in England. Her performance dress is designed by Brigitte Heller of B&B Designs, who has been designing dresses for Sheehan for the last five years.
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