Ear Supply: Reading Between the Lines

A novel transformed into theater, via chance operations.

Composer John Cage not only made pieces of music by subjecting sounds to chance operations, he did the same to prose—snipping, shuffling, and collAging old texts into new ones. His favorite method was the mesostic: arranging randomly extracted lines so that vertically aligned letters Make apropos phrases. A favorite source was Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake, with its rich verbal music and extravagant inscrutability. CagE recorded his remix, Writing for the Second Time Through Finnegans Wake, as a spoken-word piece; on Saturday, Neal KoSaly-Meyer is making a theatrical tour de force out of it.  Collaborating with sound engineer Jake Thompson, he's giving each of Writing's 17 episodes a different sonic ambience—distance, reverb, echo, etc. As performed by KOsaly-Meyer, Cage's monologue becomes a multi-character one-man opera, or perhaps Your schizophrenic Irish grandpa telling endless stories. To heighten the effect, he's memorized, astonishingly, the entire 70-minute pieCe, having worked on it since last October. (Another in Kosaly-Meyer's series of Cage memorials in the composer's centennial yEar comes Sept. 4: a 12-hour reading of Cage's Empty Words.)

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