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what is 19 waltzes for the distanced?

for performer(s) or listener(s) or record maker(s)

Who is John cage?

John Cage (1912-1992) is one of the most influential composers and creative thinkers of the 20th century. Among his most meaningful innovations is the idea that “music” is not limited to lyrical sounds deliberately performed by professional musicians in a concert hall; that anyone (and anything!) can make music; and that music is everywhere. As a result, his large-scale works, while seemingly radically abstract, often open the door to profoundly moving experiences of community music-making.

John Cage is probably best known for his so-called "silent piece," 4'33". However, the point of the piece is not silence at all: Cage asks the performers to keep quiet for the duration of the piece (4 minutes and 33 seconds), but during this time the audience's attention is drawn to the ambient sounds of the space. In a way, his "municipal compositions"--of which "Waltzes" is the first--are an expansion of this concept of drawing the listeners' attention to the sounds around them, although here the space is the city rather than the concert hall. His stated aim was "to make the city audible to itself."

Cage also believed that “self-expression” is constrained by social expectations and habits. To achieve true artistic expression, he felt it was necessary to remove the egos of both the composer and the performer from the equation. Many of his works, like this one, explore the idea of composing using chance operations.

19 Waltzes for the Distanced is a large-scale community performance of a piece by the American composer John Cage that takes place at sites across the area colonially known as Vancouver, on the ancestral and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations, and highlights the city’s neighbourhoods, artists, and arts community.

Using chance operations, we've selected 57 random locations across Vancouver--including parks, residential street corners, and industrial spots.

On September 19th from 1 to 4 pm, participants are invited to go to one or more of the randomly-generated addresses and Perform, Listen, and/or Make a Record.


Records of the performances/locations will be uploaded to this website, so online participants can browse the Records created at each place.

Click Here for more information on how to participate!

What is a "Waltz"?

The normal definition of a waltz is a formal dance in 3/4 time. A “Waltz”—in John Cage’s invented definition—is a group of three randomly-chosen addresses where participants can Perform, Listen, and or Make a Record.

How were the locations chosen?

Completely by chance! We downloaded a publicly-available data-set listing all the intersections in Vancouver from the City of Vancouver website. Then we selected specific intersections using a random number generator. Chance gave us parks, residential streets, and industrial areas, "beautiful" spots and "ugly" spots, landmarks and ordinary places. We hope you'll enjoy exploring them as much as we have!

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