On the periphery of the dimly lit stage of Toronto’s Ryerson Theatre, four musicians are setting up musical instruments, laptops, and various musical gadgets in preparation for the evening’s all-night performance. Audio cables snake across the stage to converge in the centre, where a technician is plugging them into the most unlikely of mixing units, a chessboard. To everyone on stage, none of this is a surprise, and for two in particular, the setup feels very familiar. Gordon Mumma and David Behrman were on the same stage forty-two years earlier during the original performance of John Cage and Marcel Duchamp’s Reunion. Finding themselves on the verge of restaging the event, they smile at each other and say how pleased they are to be back.
Mumma and Behrman are direct links to the original Reunion performance, held in Toronto in 1968. They, and the now deceased David Tudor, provided the musical feed to a chess match between John Cage and Marcel Duchamp at the original event. The chessboard, created by University of Toronto graduate student Lowell Cross, was designed as a mixing board, which put out to the audience up to sixteen channels of sound, depending on the configuration of chess pieces on the board.
Read more in the print edition.
Image by: Eldon Garnet