I purchased the score for John Cage’s One12 several years ago, when I was living in New York City. It has sat in my filing cabinet of scores and every now and then I’d thought about working on it, although the task seemed too daunting. All those numbers, 640 in total. And then actually performing it, it must take forever, right?
I don’t know what changed, and I don’t know what made me think of of the piece (maybe it’s because I’ve been voraciously consuming classical recordings for the past two weeks), but I was bored last night, so I took out the score, and I set about generating the 640 numbers, setting out my camera and desk, and making a video.
This video is the only performance of One12 on YouTube, and perhaps one of the only (if not the only performance) on the internet.*
One12 is part of “Without Notations,” works collected and edited by Andras Wilheim, apparently never published. The single-page holograph indicates that the performer prepare a score consisting of 640 random numbers between 1 and 12. For each number “1”, the performer speaks an “empty” (non-substantive) word; each “12” corresponds to a “full” word (noun, adjective, etc.). For numbers “2-11”, the performer produces a phonemic sound drawn from the word for the number, e.g. “t” or “too” for 2. The performance is improvisational.
– from JohnCage.org
*For several years after I posted it in 2008, I had the only complete performance of Cage’s Aria on YouTube. YouTube is now flooded with half-hearted performances of the piece.