Laura Kuhn

Laura Kuhn enjoys a lively career as a writer, performer, scholar, and arts administrator. She worked during her graduate school years in the early 1980s with the Russian-born infant terrible of American musicology, Nicolas Slonimsky, becoming successor editor, upon his death in 1996, of his acclaimed music dictionaries Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians and Music Since 1900.

In 1986, upon completion of her M.A. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (her thesis a comparative study of the theoretical ideas of German composer Richard Wagner with those of the Russian director Sergei Eisenstein), she also began working with the American composer, visual artist, and philosopher John Cage in New York on a variety of large-scale projects, including his six “mesostic” lectures for Harvard University as holder of the Charles Eliot Norton Chair in Poetry (published as I-VI, Harvard University Press, 1990) and his first full-scale opera, Europeras 1 & 2, for the Frankfurt Opera, for which, among much else, she designed costumes and created stage actions.

This work subsequently became the subject of her 1992 doctoral dissertation from UCLA, John Cage’s “Europeras 1 & 2”: The Musical Means of Revolution. From 1991 to 1996 she served as one of ten founding faculty members at Arizona State University West in Phoenix, where she helped to develop and implement an innovative interdisciplinary arts program. Simultaneously, upon Cage’s death in 1992, she worked with Cage’s long-time friends and associates Merce Cunningham, Anne d’Harnoncourt, and David Vaughan to found the John Cage Trust of New York, which she continues to serve as executive director.

In this now over ten-year capacity, she has traveled extensively, lecturing and conducting performance workshops in venues as diverse as the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, Warsaw’s Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Brussels’ “International Arts Festival.” In 1999 she even prepared a macrobiotic dinner for 80 (using Cage’s recipes) to celebrate the first-ever installation of Cage’s celebrated Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake at Belfast’s “Queens Festival”!

Other projects for the John Cage Trust under her direction have included a CD-ROM of sampled piano preparations from Cage’s landmark composition, Sonatas & Interludes (1946-48) for use by MIDI keyboard musicians, and the adaptation of Cage’s whimsical 1982 radio play, James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet, to the stage, which she has directed in seven venues around the world, including the U.S., Australia, Germany, and the U.K. In 1999–2000, she also appeared as an onstage singing guest in Mikel Rouse’s irreverent “talk-show” opera, Dennis Cleveland, last mounted at New York’s Lincoln Center in May 2002.

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