John Cage in Norway
Prisma CD707

Having received an invitation from Ole Henrik Moe, the Director of the Henie Onstad Art Centre, John Cage arrived at Fornebu Airport one November day in 1983 and was quickly lodged into a guest apartment in the basement of the museum. Cage had brought with him to Norway a heavy suitcase containing amongst other things a water distiller, a selection of fungi and grains needed for his macrobiotic diet, a pocket chess set and a strong wish to get to meet the Norwegian fungi experts Finn-Egil Eckblad and Gro Gulden.

The programme for the first half of “Cage Week” focused on Cage’s lectures and other text-pieces. He performed Composition in Retrospect at the Norwegian Academy of Music, held a previously unpublished lecture called Duchamp, Johns, Rauschenberg, Tobey, Graves at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, and performed the text pieces James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie and Alphabet and Muoyce at the Henie Onstad Art Centre. The second half of the week focused on a programme of concerts held at the art centre, with a percussion orchestra conducted by Christian Eggen. The ensemble was to perform, in various constellations, the pieces First, Second & Third Construction, Branches and Music for Marcel Duchamp. On Cage’s own request the Swedish pianist Mats Persson and the French violinist Ami Flammer were invited to perform Freeman Etudes and Sonatas and Interludes.

Cage was very active during his days in Norway, even outside of the official programme. He finished an eight-part Haiku-poem, which he presented as a gift to Ole Henrik Moe. At the museum he also made a series of drawings, tracing the outline of stones that he had brought with him, onto sheets of paper laid out onto the floor. He also got to play several games of chess with some of the musicians, and he went on a failed mushroom hunt at Frognerseteren on a cold November morning.

Cage’s visit was well documented in photo, video and audio recordings, he was interviewed by all the major newspapers, as well as by Eivind Solås for NRK Television. A special pamphlet was printed for the event, containing articles by amongst others Kåre Kolberg and Kjell Samkopf. Shortly after his stay the Norwegian journal of new music, Ballade, published a special Cage edition. Recordings of the event were published in 1984 as an unusual 10-tape suitcase “John Cage in Norway”.

Today in 2010, on the occasion of this exhibition, Henie Onstad Art Centre has published a book and CD also titled “John Cage in Norway”. This publication incorporates the sounds, photographs and articles that document the important Cage visit, which echoed in Norway’s musical and cultural life for years to follow.