Roaming Urban Soundscapes: The Anniversaries of John Cage & New York Mycological Society

Saturday, September 08, 2012, 8:00pm - 11:00pm

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Cooper Union Stock Photo

(August 2012, New York) A celebration of the 50th anniversary of New York Mycological Society, a not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to educating the public about mushrooms and the centenary of its founder, composer John Cage.
The Society is celebrating with a presentation — in theater and in exhibition — that explores a life in mushrooms of John Cage.

Both events will be held at The Cooper Union (The Great Hall, in the Foundation Building, 7 East 7th Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues) the weekend of September 7-8, 2012.  For further information please go to: newyorkmyc.org

The theatrical event, to be held in the Great Hall on Saturday, September 8, will be a grand multi-media Cagean simultaneity featuring live performances by Jonas Mekas, Jim Kerr, Gary Lincoff and Chris Mann.  There will be a special realization of Cage’s 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs and a lively visual backdrop of mushroom stills and movies collected and produced over the last fifty years.


A special limited availability gala ticket includes a prime seat in the theater and a multicourse buffet prepared by and given in the home of nationally known chef and author Eugenia Bone (Mycophilia: Revelations from the Weird World of Mushrooms;
Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods).

The gallery event, September 7 & 8 will feature the first complete exhibition of the Lois Long and John Cage's Mushroom Book. This mounting is a signal event that marks an effort by the John Cage Trust, in collaboration with the NYMS, to make these lithographs more widely available. The gallery will also have ephemera from NYMS archives, mushroom art by present and former NYMS members, and a display of mushroom specimens collected from the NYC environment.

These programs are being held as a benefit for the NYMS and the John Cage Trust.

Program Notes:

The musical life of John Cage is amply documented. His Beethoven-sized catalog stands on its own as testament to a fertile mind. Manifold volumes of criticism, encomiums, books, interviews and his literary output amplify his musical influence. His interest in mycology is well known but there are few accounts of his work in this field. We have his own words scattered throughout his writings and a few articles by friends and associates.

As a dedicated chowhound he was always foraging. And while he brought a valedictory mind to his mycological pursuits, he remained the brilliant student but did not add to the scientific mycological literature. The myco-legacy that does remain is embodied in the lore of the New York Mycological Society, which arose from a course in mushroom identification that he taught at the New School for Social Research in the fall of 1962. The Society was founded as a solution to a problem facing him: the management of mushroom walks and lectures required manpower that he alone could not provide.

Tonight we hope the audience will enjoy the sights and sounds of the mushroom hunt, Cage's and other NYMS members' stories culled and perhaps burnished in time. You will hear and see an eclectic mix of eccentric New Yorkers. There is Gwen Fabricant's account of her summer in Cage's Stony Point house, which led her, as it did Cage himself, to explore the fungal flora outside the door. Laurette Reisman née Shapiro, one of the members of that New School class, tells us about those beginning days. Gary Lincoff, Howard Goldstein, Ralph Cox and others will figure into tonight's presentation. Many of our more recent members are also making contributions tonight in sound and in film. And, after all, what would be the fun in a gathering of mushroomers without a good tale or two of mushroom poisoning (survived)!

From stories like these we see that Cage's mushroom legacy lives on. We hope you take joy in the delight we all share.

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Located in The Great Hall, in the Foundation Building, 7 East 7th Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.