|This is a plan for finding an arrangement of a specific electro-acoustic system, in which performers are allowed to act in a free and unscripted manner. WhereVariations VI was a tool for creating a sound system, here we find a tool for creating a musical score. Or, as James Pritchett puts it: "The sound system was designed with the limitation that only sounds that arose during the performance were to be used -- in other words, the performers would not make any actions to generate sounds deliberately, but rather would use technological means to discover sounds in the air "as through with a net."... ".
The work was set up as a collaboration between artists and engineers. In it one could hear amplified sounds of the heart, lungs, brain and other body parts, geiger counters, radios, televisions, telephones etc.
More details on first performance:
Performance engineer: Cecil Coker
Grateful acknowledgement is made for the cooperation of: Merce CunninghamDance Foundation, Luchow's Restaurant, A.S.P.C.A., The New York Times, The City of N.Y., Terry Riley, Robert Wood, Richard Hennessy, Rubin Goprowtiz.
In the souvenir program for the first performance Cage writes a statement about the piece: "My project is simple to describe. It is a piece of music, Variation VII,indeterminate in form and detail, making use of the sound system which has been devised collectively for this festival, further making use of modulation means organized by David Tudor, using as sound sources only those sounds which are in the air at the moment of performance, picked up via the communication bands, telephone lines, microphones together with, instead of musical isntruments, a variety of household appliances and frequency generators.
The technical problems involved in any single project tend to reduce the impact of the original idea, but in being solved they produce a situation different than anyone could have pre-imagined."
Sources: Paul van Emmerik: Thema's en Variaties; New York Public Library online catalog; William Fetterman: John Cage's theatre pieces: Notations and performances; James Pritchett: The Music of John Cage; 9 evenings: theatre and engineering. [Souvenir program], New York, 1966.
Thanks to Kenneth Silverman for sending me the text of the '9 evenings' program.