November 2–3
Studio, Sydney Opera House

Bang On A Can has had the blessing of John Cage, their idol and the patriarch of contemporary classical music, ever since he showed up to their first concert 25 years ago. The New York ensemble commissioned or programmed at least one work from him annually until his death in 1992, and his music and philosophy remains a cornerstone of their practice. So it’s fitting that they took charge of the Sydney Opera House’s sprawling two-day festival celebrating John Cage’s centenary year, tracing the lineage from the iconoclast’s own creations to the younger generations inspired by him – and not just in the rarefied classical realm.

The Bang On A Can All-Stars sextet opened proceedings with an introduction to one of Cage’s fundamental guiding principles music determined by chance, combining his Indeterminacy(1959) with Variations II(1961). With the whimsy of the transistor radio gently piping away and occasionally switching channels onstage, each performer contributed random instrumental noises and intoned fragments of Cage’s writings, from meticulously argued logic, excerpts from lectures and charming personal anecdotes ­– the range of which belies Cage’s most famous quote, “I have nothing to say and I am saying...