Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins will recite American maverick John Cage’s experimental spoken-word piece, Lecture on Nothing, with accompaniment from the San Francisco Symphony on Saturday, May 16th.

The SF Symphony will perform Cage’s complete hypnotic masterpiece Renga, with a unique, multimedia presentation. Video projections will be shown that originate from the New World Symphony’s performance during their Cage Centennial celebration last February, developed in collaboration with the John Cage Trust. Lecture for Nothing is one of the ‘layers’ of the wild Renga piece, and San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas will put his own signature spin on the performance.

Tim Robbins, who comes from a musical family, is super excited to be involved with the event. His mother was a long-time performer and president of the New York Choral Society, and his father, after a successful career in folk music, became a dedicated composer and conductor of 20th century choral music.

The all-Cage program also includes the SF Symphony’s first performances of The Seasons, which is a ballet choreographed by Merce Cunningham, for which Cage composed the music. See below for a complete evening performance schedule. Tickets are available for purchase on the Davies Symphony website.

John Cage Program at Davies Symphony Hall
Saturday, May 16 at 8 pm

  • Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
  • Tim Robbins, speaker
  • Patrick Dupré Quigley, baritone
  • Christopher Dylan Herbert, baritone
  • Clyde Scott, video design
  • San Francisco Symphony

Performance Schedule
The Seasons [SFS first performances] 
Renga (with video projection):

  • Lecture on Nothing (with speaker Tim Robbins)
  • Sonata for Clarinet
  • Suite for Toy Piano
  • In a Landscape
  • Child of Tree
  • Litany for the Whale
  • Ryoanji
  • Hymnkus
  • Variations IV
  • A Room

John Cage was an iconic avant-garde composer who shattered boundaries of classical music-making with his group improvisational work, Renga. He was also a self-identified anarchist, “I’m an anarchist. I don’t know whether the adjective is pure and simple, or philosophical, or what, but I don’t like government! And I don’t like institutions! And I don’t have any confidence in even good institutions.”