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Originally published Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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John Cage's 100th birthday is happening all over Seattle

John Cage (1912-1992) would have been 100 years old on Sept. 5, and musicians in Seattle — where Cage made some of his most notable musical innovations — are throwing him several birthday parties in typically antic Cagian style.

Seattle Times arts writer

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Wednesday, Sept. 5, marks the 100th birthday of composer John Cage (1912-1992). And musicians in Seattle — where Cage came up with some of his liveliest musical innovations in the late 1930s — are making the most of it.

First, Pacific Rims Percussion Quartet presents "Dear John," a pairing of two percussion works: "Credo in Us," from 1942, and "Four4," written in 1991. The difference between them: "Credo," while experimental in nature, is written in standard musical notation, while "Four4" includes verbal instructions to the performers, giving them a number of choices to make in playing the piece. (7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Chapel Performance Space, 4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Seattle; $5-$15 at door).

Then on Friday, the Esoterics start a three-night run of choral works by Cage, including excerpts from his "Song Books." The Seattle choral group says those new to Cage should "expect the unexpected — a game of solitaire, an untied shoe, an emergency exit or even a surprise gift!"

One ticket will get you into all three concerts, and the performance of "Four6," designed to happen while the audience is entering the concert hall, begins half an hour before official showtime. (8 p.m. Friday, All Pilgrims Christian Church, 500 Broadway E., Seattle; 8 p.m. Saturday, Queen Anne Christian Church, 1316 Third Ave. W.; and 3 p.m. Sunday, Holy Rosary Catholic Church, 4152 42nd Ave. S.W., Seattle; $10-$20; 206-935-7779 or www.theesoterics.org).

Finally, Cornish College of the Arts — where Cage invented the prepared piano and founded the Cage Percussion Players — will celebrate his legacy with a "John Cage 100th Birthday Celebration."

The program includes "Three2," a late percussion trio performed by three members of Pacific Rims; part two of "A Book of Music" for two prepared pianos (Roger Nelson and Adrienne Varner on keyboards), "Nocturne" for violin and piano, featuring Varner and violinist Paris Hurley; and Cage's Concert for Piano and Orchestra, conducted by Jarrad Powell, with a "Fontana Mix" thrown into it. (8 p.m. Sept. 14, Poncho Hall, 710 E. Roy St., Seattle; $10-$20; 206-726-5151 or www.cornish.edu).

What, you might ask, is a "prepared piano"?

It was Cage's way of making the keyboard instrument sound more percussive by using screws, nuts and weather stripping to mute some piano strings and alter the pitch or timbre of others.

As for a "Fontana Mix," it's "a set of materials," Powell explains, "for creating a score for any kind of activity" — in this case, a percussion part for the Pacific Rims' Matthew Kocmieroski.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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