Cartridge Music in the Quarantine : Presence, Absence, Contingency Setups and (De-)territorialised Performances


Marcello Messina  

Universidade Federal da Paraíba João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil

Author’s contact information:

Valério Fiel da Costa

Universidade Federal da Paraíba João Pessoa, Paraíba, Brazil

Author’s contact information:  

Marco Scarassatti

Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Author’s contact information:


INSAM Journal of Contemporary Music, Art and Technology, Issue 5, 2020

Main Theme of the Issue: Art, Music and Technology in the Time of Global Crisis

Publisher: INSAM Institute for Contemporary Artistic Music, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina


Abstract: Between the end of May and the beginning of June, 2020, we performed individually, filmed, synced together, edited and presented a quarantine version of John Cage’s Cartridge Music. Uploaded on YouTube, the performance was broadcast on 1 June, as part of the 4th Research Colloquium of the Postgraduate Programme in Music of the Federal University of Paraíba. Stranded at home since March, unable to reach our respective faculty offices/studios, and mostly left with domestic gear, kitchenware, sound-producing car equipment and our children’s toys, we put together an emergency version of the piece, characterised by three dramatically different setups, each with its own spatialities and soundworlds. Importantly, our use of the signifier “emergency” here is meant to refer much more to the concrete condition of our existences in this particular situation, than to the contingential circumstances of this specific musical activity. In this paper, we discuss the piece by considering its preparation, performance, presentation the (de-)territorialisation of performance and on the territorial metaphors embedded in collaborative artistic interaction, we question the notions of “place” and “venue” in the context of a collective performance that happened in three different locations and of a subsequent première that did not happen in any tangible physical place at all. However, and in spite of the substantial de-territorialisation of our gig, we also consider a set of persisting spatial narratives that inscribe the performance in terms of both visually and aurally perceptible power relations. Finally, considering the inherent criticalities of the field(s) of “experimental”, “avant-garde” or simply “contemporary” music, we assess the gains and losses of such a dematerialised and yet ubiquitous performance in terms of audience participation and appreciation.

Keywords: John Cage, Cartridge Music, experimental music, quarantine, pandemics, (de-)territorialisation of performance, contingency setups



ISSN 2637 – 1898

COBISS.BH-ID 26698502

UDC 78:792

On the cover: Franziska Rittiger, Vanitas reloaded, 2020.

Design and layout: Milan Šuput, Bojana Radovanović


The Journal is indexed in: CEEOL – Central and Eastern European Online Library RILM – Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.