Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Heimbecker, Sara. "HPSCHD, Gesamtkunstwerk, and Utopia." American Music 26 (Winter 2008): 474-98.

Scholarship often portrays John Cage as a composer at odds with tradition, but such a portrayal obscures the composer's engagement with Gesamtkunstwerk and its utopian aesthetics. In 1967 Cage was working at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with Lejaren Hiller. The university at this time had cutting-edge computer technology. Cage and Hiller collaborated to plan HPSCHD, a four-hour work for seven harpsichords, 51 tape players, 208 computer generated tapes, 64 slide projectors and 8 film projectors. Cage used chance procedures to create the harpsichord parts from pieces by Mozart, as well as Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, Gottschalk, Busoni, Hiller, and himself. In HPSCHD, Cage aimed to create a microcosm of an ideal, utopian anarchist world of abundance. This is analogous to Wagner's conception of Gesamtkunstwerk as a model for social unity. HPSCHD is also a theater piece and offers a space in which participants can create their own postmodern narrative. Seeing Cage's work in conjunction with his politics helps one to see his participation in high modern European traditions like Gesamtkunstwerk.

Works: John Cage, HPSCHD (474-98).

Sources: Beethoven: Piano Sonata in F minor, Op. 57 (Appassionata) (493); Chopin: Prelude in D Minor, Op. 28, No. 24 (493); Schumann: "Reconaissance" from Carnaval (493); Gottschalk: The Banjo (493); Busoni: Sonatina No. 2 (493); Cage: Winter Music (493); Lejaren Hiller: Sonata No. 5 (493).

Index Classifications: 1900s

Contributed by: Kerry O'Brien

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