Arts Blog

John Cage’s ‘The City Wears a Slouch Hat’

On Saturday, October 29, 2022, host Andrea Murray presented at a very special episode of Club Mod, featuring the recent live performance of John Cage and Kenneth Patchen‘s 1942 radio play The City Wears a Slouch Hat, performed by some of your favorite All Classical Portland hosts as part of 45th Parallel UniverseRadio Happening event. This episode of Club Mod also featured interviews with All Classical Portland Artist in Residence María García, and Ron Blessinger, 45th’s Interim Executive Director.

45th Parallel Universe‘s The Gemini Project performed The City Wears a Slouch Hat at The Old Madeleine Church in early October 2022. Louanne Moldovan directed the cast of All Classical Portland radio hosts Warren Black, Robert McBride, Suzanne Nance, Brandi Parisi, John Pitman, and Sarah Zwinklis.

Radio Happening, a concert event featuring several works by John Cage, explored the powerful role that radio has played in advancing artistic risk taking, innovation, and sharing classical music with wider audiences.


Enjoy this video recording of the entire October 2022 performance, featuring James Shields, clarinet; María García, prepared piano; The Gemini Project: Sergio Carreno, percussion, Jon Greeney, percussion, Chris Whyte, percussion Gordon Rencher, percussion; Raúl Gómez-Rojas, conductor; and Ron Blessinger, producer, script writer, sound effects.


The City Wears a Slouch Hat was composed in 1942 by John Cage in just under a week, after his original vision for the radio drama was deemed impossible to produce. Initially calling for only the use of “sound effects” as instruments, the original score is thought to be lost.

Instead Cage wrote, assembled, and rehearsed a more modest take in just four days, using tin cans, gongs, alarm bells, foghorns, and other unconventional instruments. This version premiered on the radio in Chicago on May 31, 1942, with a script by Kenneth Patchen.

Slouch Hat tells the tale of a man called “The Voice” who wanders around an imaginary big city, encountering surreal circumstances and mysterious characters. The premiere broadcast received mixed reviews, and as a result Cage’s follow-up projects were cancelled. Today, the work, Cage, and Patchen are now considered pioneers of the American avant garde movement, and are credited with encouraging experimentation in music, technology, radio, and instrumentation.

Learn more about the program and the performers.

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