2012 was John Cage's centennial year and to celebrate it, So Percussion, a leading U.S.-based quartet, has put together a series of events and media releases whose unconventionality embodies the spirit of Cage's own push against the confining boundaries of tradition. Part of the celebration was a series of concerts presented throughout the U.S. and Canada in the late winter and early spring 2012. The release package, Cage 100: The Bootleg Series, perfectly exemplifies the whimsical, chance-derived Cageianism of their approach. The Cantaloupe release, a limited edition of 300 numbered copies, includes the following elements: an LP (which is blank, in homage to the legendary 4'33") with an individually designed and constructed cover; a 64-minute CD with 14 tracks taken from a concert recorded October 30, 2011, at UC Davis, consisting of works by Cage and works inspired by him, in which "the track selections, order, and durations were determined using chance operations"; and an access card that gives its owner a code for downloading an ever-expanding library of performances of works by Cage, and inspired by Cage on the So Percussion website. Once the limited edition is sold out, the music from the CD will no longer be available in this particular formatting, but Cantaloupe is simultaneously releasing unique mixes of materials from a variety of So Percussion concerts on iTunes and eMusic Exclusives. The big advantage of purchasing the physical copy of The Bootleg Series is having the code for unlimited access to So Percussion's Cage performances.
The inventiveness of the entire enterprise and the unpredictability of the ultimate product (the downloads) beautifully embody the open-endedness of Cage's aesthetic. By taking his ideas in directions he could never have imagined, So Percussion has realized and given new life to Cage's generous intent to divest his compositions of ego and to empower performers. One can't help imagining his infectious smile and laugh if he were on hand to experience this project.