BHSU to host avant-garde multimedia music event to Spearfish

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, August 12, 2014/Categories: 2014

           Next month, Dr. Symeon Waseen, BHSU assistant professor of music, will perform Sonatas and Interludes, a piece by the late composer John Cage that features a prepared piano.  

            Waseen spent nearly three hours intricately placing screws, bolts and rubber pieces throughout the strings of the piano for the unique performance which will also include modern dancers and artwork from BHSU graphic design students.


Black Hills State University music professor Dr. Symeon Waseen has spent much of his summer preparing for his fall performance of one of the 20th century&rsquos premier piano masterpieces &ndash including trips to the local hardware store.

In the unique performance next month, Waseen will perform Sonatas and Interludes, with what is referred to as a "prepared piano piece" by the late composer John Cage. The multimedia music event which will include modern dancing and visual art from BHSU graphic design students is Friday, Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in the Clare and Josef Meier Recital Hall.

The prepared piano is a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects between or on the strings. For Sonatas and Interludes, Waseen spent nearly three hours intricately placing screws, bolts and rubber pieces throughout the strings of the piano.

"It&rsquos completely different from what you expect," Waseen said of the prepared piano.

While Waseen and his BHSU students have performed prepared piano pieces before none of them have been as elaborate as Sonatas and Interludes, considered one of Cage&rsquos finest achievements. The composition includes a total of 20 pieces, 16 sonatas and four interludes. The four interludes will include modern dancers from Spearfish&rsquos Black Hills Dance Centre. During the sonatas a large screen will feature artwork created by BHSU graphic design students in Gina Gibson&rsquos classes

"Having some of kind visual really draws the audience in," Waseen said. The aim of the piece is to express the eight permanent emotions of the rasa Indian tradition, Waseen said noting that Cage composed the piece in the late 1940s shortly after his introduction to Indian philosophy.

"Each of the sonatas and interludes represent an emotion, but Cage never indicated which was which," Waseen said. The graphic design students will listen to the composition and interpret for themselves the emotions, he said noting that the students&rsquo artwork will reflect their interpretations.

All the emotions lead to a sense of tranquility &ndash a feeling that is evident in the end of the composition. "I think the entire pieces as a whole represents the move to tranquility because as you get to the end of the piece the contrast between sonatas gets less and less."

Waseen said he is excited to see how both the dancers and the graphic designers interpret the composition.

"I&rsquom really excited to have the dancers. Cage collaborated with dancers all the time. One of his longtime friends, Merce Cunningham was a famous choreographer and modern dancer. They did a lot of projects together."

Nearly all of Cage&rsquos compositions can be set to dance, Waseen said. In the 1980s, the New York City Ballet danced to Sonatas and Interludes.

Andrea Chase, owner/director of the Black Hills Dance Centre, said she has been listening to the composition throughout the summer and working on choreography for the four interludes.

"It&rsquos very inspiring when you hear music that you can picture movements to," Chase said noting that she envisions some performances with just a few dancers and others with a larger group.

"This will be a really neat event. You don&rsquot get to hear this piece live very often because the set-up is so time sensitive, Waseen said. "It is a lot of preparation, but it is worth it."

The event also includes a pre-concert dinner featuring Indian-inspired food. Tickets for the concert only are $10 and $40 for the concert and dinner. To reserve tickets go to For more information contact Waseen at 605-642-6241 or

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