SOLO 58 from SONG BOOKS (1970)

realized and interpreted by AMELIA CUNI
premiere of the complete SOLO


co-produced by Casa da Música Porto, Handelsbeurs Gent, Megaron Athens, Other Minds SanFrancisco, Ultima Oslo, Voix Nouvelles - Fondation Royaumont


Amelia Cuni : dhrupad vocals
Ray Kaczynski : percussion
Federico Sanesi : percussion
Werner Durand : drones/electronics

light/stage design: Andreas Harder
costumes: Petra Peters
music consultant: Ulrich Krieger
theatrical consultant: Cristina Tappe
production manager: Guido Henneböhl

During the 40's, John Cage came in contact with Indian music and philosophy and started applying some of its principles to his own work. Indian thought has influenced Cage's music mostly on a conceptual, theoretical level, therefore these 18 MICROTONAL RAGAS represent an exceptional and unique practical example of Cage's own approach to this rich and stimulating musical tradition.
The SOLO FOR VOICE 58, consisting of 18 separate and independent parts is an 'indeterminate' work. The challenge for the performer is to develop 'ragas' out of tonal material which has been composed in a non-traditional context. This apparent contradiction has been the driving force behind Amelia Cuni’s intensive engagement with this work for the past few years.
She first performed this SOLO during the rendition of the COMPLETE SONG BOOKS at the Theater Bielefeld in Germany in May 2001, in collaboration with Christian Kesten and the new music vocal ensemble 'Die Maulwerker'. She then went on deepening her involvement with this unusual work, feeling that this was a unique opportunity to further her own understanding of the relationship between tradition and experimentation, confronting East and West in a process of de-conditioning perfectly fitting her personal history as a European dhrupad singer.

John Cage uses the word 'raga' (melodic module) and 'tala' (rhythmic cycle) in his directions for SOLO 58, therefore the pieces are treated as such, although they do not match any traditional Indian raga because of several musicological divergencies. These discrepancies trigger a vast series of questions and challenges to the common understanding of Indian music. They introduce a valuable outsider perspective and suggest possible future developments for an ancient but lively tradition.
Two basic concepts are embodied in this realization of the complete SOLO 58: the meaning of raga,“to color the mind” and chance operations, a typically Cagean tool. Together, they will inform the sonic and visual result. Following Cage’s own instructions, other SOLOS FOR VOICE and SOLOS FOR THEATRE (with or without electronics) will be integrated or superimposed on the 18 microtonal ragas.
The overall outcome of Amelia’s interpretation of SOLO 58 is therefore some kind of recognizable raga music, although it cannot be defined as exclusively Indian. In these scores (series of graphically notated microtones among which the performer can select raga pitches), Cage leaves open a vast range of possibilities encouraging the interpreter to reflect, question, choose and create in an experimental way. SOLO 58 embodies some of the most far-reaching and lesser known traits of John Cage’s work.

Premiered on March19th, 2006 at MAERZMUSIK / BERLINER FESTSPIELE (www.maerzmusik.de)


Amelia Cuni

John Cage: SOLO FOR VOICE 58 - eighteen microtonal ragas - SONG BOOKS (1970)

Other Minds, San Francisco 2007

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notes for the CD booklet

by Amelia Cuni, 2007 (edited by Adam Fong, Other Minds):

The highest aim of our music is to reveal the essence of the universe it reflects.
-Ravi Shankar (Clayton 10)

Solo for Voice 58” is an indeterminate work and consists of 18 separate and independent parts. In his directions, Cage refers explicitly to traditional Indian music forms. The task for the performer is to develop ragas and talas in a non-traditional context. This apparent contradiction has been the driving force behind my intensive engagement with this work for the past few years.

In Cage’s score, he indicates a series of graphically notated microtones from which the performer can select the raga pitches, leaving open a vast range of possibilities, encouraging the interpreter to reflect, question, choose and create in an experimental way.

I first performed “Solo for Voice 58” during a rendition of the complete Song Books at the Theater Bielefeld (Germany) in May 2001 featuring Christian Kesten, Steffi Weissmann and the new music vocal ensemble Die Maulwerker. After many years of study in India and collaborations with several composers of experimental music, I was naturally prepared for and drawn to this unusual work. As far as we know, ours was the first performance of “Solo for Voice 58” by a singer of raga music.

It took me some years to be able to make full use of this remarkable opportunity. To confront the tradition from an experimental standpoint has been a very intense involvement: I have taken into consideration all sorts of musical ideas, and accepted decisions made by chance procedures, even when they seemed foreign to the raga milieu. While exploring this unfamiliar and in some ways forbidden territory, I have been keeping in mind the important role played by ‘refused materials’ in Cage’s musical thought, and learned that what seems unnatural at first may acquire a meaning later on, which gradually emerges through practice and increased familiarity. I have tried to leave aside preconceptions and established habits with the aim to allow the sounds to “be themselves.”

I believe the overall outcome of my interpretation is recognizable as raga music, although it cannot be appreciated exclusively by Indian music standards. Two basic concepts, although an improbable pair, have been brought together in this realization: the meaning of the musical term raga—to color the mind—and the use of chance operations.

Eighteen full range microtonal ‘ragas’ (see Solo 14, though here one has bass and treble clefs*). They are double; that is, either part may be used for ascending or descending, and one can move freely from one side to the other of a single ‘raga’ and one can use as little or as much of it as desired. The associated numbers are ‘talas’ on the basis of which singing and/or drumming may be improvised. Think either of the morning, the afternoon or the evening, giving a description or account of recent pleasures or beauties noticed. Free vocalize also.
For numbers greater than 2 make any desired divisions, freely varying them.

*This refers to the kind of notation used by Cage for the microtones.

The Cagean Raga

In his directions for Solo 58, John Cage explicitly uses the Indian musical terms raga (melodic module) and tala (metric cycle). Therefore I have treated the pieces as such, although they do not fit the traditional framework. From my point of view as a raga singer, this Solo introduces a qualified outside perspective and suggests possible developments for an ancient but still lively tradition.

According to Indian music lore, ragas are considered entities existing in their own musical dimension, kept alive and in good health by the sincere and disciplined efforts of practicing musicians. In the Indian tradition, new creations have to first be accepted by the musicians’ community and performed by others before they can acquire full raga or tala status. Only time will tell if they can be considered mature, autonomous musical entities in their own right. Over the centuries, the raga praxis has changed considerably through this process, transforming with it, in an organic way, the character of Indian music. As a result, modern Indian ragas and talas are based on highly refined musical concepts that have been cultivated over centuries.

At the same time, ragas are practical tools supporting the musician in his improvisations. Interestingly, we find in Solo 58 one of the rare instances in which Cage prescribes improvisation. In the classical tradition of North India, this is a vital ingredient. More precisely, it is considered to be the only way to bring ragas to life. Such improvisations are disciplined by a customary development fitting the modal structure of the music and including brief so-called ‘compositions’ (bandish) with lengthy improvised variations. In the study of Hindustani music, special emphasis is laid on the training of improvisational abilities by means of specific techniques and exercises. This is because the music, belonging to an aural tradition, depends upon each performer to re-construct the ‘personality’ of the raga each time anew, relying only on memory and inspiration.

Understood and experienced as musical ‘personalities’, ragas are traditionally subjected to a kind of ‘grammar’, a set of commonly accepted rules and patterns of behavior helping to shape their individual character. Practically, these rules may differ from school to school, have been constantly changing through the centuries and may be occasionally disregarded by experienced musicians. Nevertheless, without this ‘grammar’, it is considered impossible to achieve the desired effect and the emotional impact of ragas. Cage acknowledges this feature by offering in his score ascending and descending parts, a direct translation of the arohi / avarohi terminology used in Hindustani music. This is possibly the most relevant principle guiding today’s melodic development in the traditional raga format. However, Cage introduces a more unorthodox, anarchic approach by allowing the interpreter to “move freely from one side to the other of a single ‘raga’ and one can use as little or as much of it as desired.”

Despite this great freedom in selecting the pitches, I found it necessary to establish features for the behavior of each one of Cage’s ragas, such as melodic outlines (challan) and key-phrases (pakad). These patterns and restrictions may not coincide with those of contemporary Indian raga grammar but they have been built through an analogous process involving both analytical and empirical procedures. To accept this challenge meant trying to achieve an emotional impact (coloring of the mind) by developing a defined, independent ‘personality’ for each Cagean raga.

Emergence of the Raga-Bhava

A raga is pre-existent to be sure (whether regarded as recently, and humanly composed, or essentially a gift from God), but it is neither an object, nor a fixed structure built on notes in the sense of a symphony or string quartet. The raga is a dynamic, temporal, generative principle which can have no satisfactory representation in static or synchronic form. The raga can only be apprehended in performance, in time.

Performance is therefore conceived as a process of making audible, of evoking, of manifesting: and the primary criterion by which a performance is judged is the extent to which it permits the raga itself to do what it is uniquely able to do, which is to create affect (bhav), to move the hearts of those who hear it.
Martin Clayton, Time in Indian Music p. 14

In the traditional Indian view, shaped by the philosophical concept of nadabrahman (sound as agent of creation), music-making is understood as a creative process having an impact on the existence of the whole universe. This ‘micro-macrocosmic’ relationship was codified by Cage in the rhythmic structures of his early pieces. Likewise, the inner attitude of the performer is considered to be as important as his musical skills and the creative process more critical than its final product. Cage himself was deeply influenced by this manner of music-making—in his “Autobiographical Statement”’ we read these often quoted lines:

I could not accept the academic idea that the purpose of music was communication…I determined to give up composition unless I could find a better reason for doing it than communication. I found this answer from Gita Sarabhai*, an Indian singer and tabla player: The purpose of music is to sober and quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences. I also found in the writings of Ananda K. Coomaraswammy** that the responsibility of the artist is to imitate nature in her manner of operation. I became less disturbed and went back to work.

*Cage’s Indian music mentor
**Indian art historian

In traditional Indian ragas, pitches are organized modally and ordered in an ascending and a descending progression (arohi/avarohi). The raga pitches, called svaras (that which shines of itself), are always perceived as intervals in relation to the chosen basic pitch. The set of intervals in a raga recurs in each octave and very often contains an inner symmetry linking higher and lower parts of the octave by means of consonant relationships. Cage's ragas are instead made of intervals which may be chosen freely from his given sets of pitches, therefore the resulting scales do not recur in all octaves.

In Indian music, singers use an audible drone usually played on the tanpura, a plucked instrument tuned to a basic pitch suitable for the singer’s vocal range. This individual ‘tonic’ will be used throughout a performance and for daily practice as well, in order to perfect the tuning of the intervals and facilitate improvisation. Typically, raga pitches are not fixed and may be transposed to accommodate each singer. This leads to the conclusion that to the trained Indian ear, intervals are more meaningful than pitches. In Cage’s ragas, I had to reverse this concept and let the pitches of the score, which do not fit any traditional intonation patterns, find their way to become meaningful intervals in a raga context.

I chose a basic pitch for each of the 18 pieces. In some cases, its selection was made through chance operations, but I chose my usual basic pitch fitting my own vocal range (A-flat) whenever it appeared in the score. The additional raga pitches were selected among the given ones by means of chance operations or by ear. After several months of practice, slowly but steadily, the raga-bhava (bhava means expression or affect) started to emerge from Cage’s microtonal assemblages, in spite of the numerous deviations from traditional rules. This was the most exciting part of my work on the interpretation of Solo 58: a continuous search for an emancipated perception of sound, melody and rhythm within a musical framework which belongs to an age old tradition and at the same time remains fluid and open to change.

Cage’s notation does not precisely define microtones but rather allows flexibility in their intonation (i.e. higher, lower, very high, very low etc. in relation to their neighboring pitches). Their exact tuning has therefore been developed by ear while working on a single raga as a whole. Their actual pitch and function in each Cagean raga personality has been gradually consolidated through practice and improvisation, consciously freeing them from habitual intonation patterns.

Indian music is always microtonal (nowadays usually employing just-intonation intervals) and intonation is dictated by a cultivated pitch perception, often extremely precise, inherited from the aural tradition and supported by an ancient theoretical background. However, these hearing and tuning habits (together with the perception of tempo and rhythm) continuously change, adjusting to new social, environmental and cultural stimuli. The unpredictable, unclassifiable intonation of these 18 ragas may be considered a part of this process of change.

Considering that Cage emphasizes accuracy of intonation by using the phrase ‘microtonal raga’ in his instructions, I have opted for the use of audible drones allowing for the maximum possible accuracy. We have mostly realized them with pre-recorded sounds from various sources belonging either to the traditional raga milieu or to the larger sound environment of Song Books. At times, I may get my basic pitch from some tuned percussion accompaniment. The samples have been electronically treated using digital delays and other effects and are often non-continuous as opposed to the uninterrupted drone of the Indian tanpura. In any case, these drones do not have an autonomous musical function; as in Indian music, they are always regarded as an integral part of the raga. The rich sound of the tanpura is used for the practical purpose of tuning as well as to help the musician to ‘get into the right mood’. Similarly, our drones lend an atmosphere to the pieces and become a conscious source of inspiration, contributing to the emergence of a raga-bhava.

Treatment of Tala

In contemporary Indian music, singers restrict the use of talas to a specific phase of the raga performance called bandish or ‘composition.’ This consists of a few poetic lines set to music according to a customary structure, mostly depending on the kind of singing genre being performed. This is followed by numerous improvisations of increasing complexity and speed. Moreover, whenever tala appears, the singer is accompanied by percussion. The given tala pattern will be strictly adhered to with the support of clapping (cheironomy), and at the same time the singing improvisations will be interacting with the percussion.

Cage's talas mostly employ atypical divisions. Indian music theoretically recognizes infinite possibilities of rhythmical combinations, although nowadays only certain of these are commonly performed. In Solo 58, we have explored a variety of options besides the ones consolidated by the tradition, such as: singing within a tala framework without percussion accompaniment; singing without a tala but with percussion playing one; using tala in singing and percussion both without conforming to the customary bandish requirements and form but setting new rules and developing atypical structures.

In raga music, the singer is always considered a soloist, even when accompanied by percussionists. In fact, the complexity of ragas and talas in Indian classical music does not allow the soloist to sing and drum at the same time. In order to match the process of de-construction and de-conditioning taking place within the raga form, we have chosen two percussionists with complementary musical backgrounds: one from the classical Indian tradition and one from the Western tradition.

In the treatment of laya (tempo), which is an important aspect of tala, we have departed from the tradition by playing with fragmentation, gradual speed variations, and layers of various tempi. Here we have looked for support and inspiration in the instructions of Song Books and in some of its graphic scores, as well as in John Cage’s own working methods, such as the use of various kinds of time brackets and chance procedures. As a result, our treatment of the variety of talas in Solo 58 does not conform to the standard laya structures of intensification and acceleration typical of Indian music. Our interpretation does not induce any sense of progression and often creates the impression that ragas and talas are executed in parallel but independently, so that several perceptions of time coexist in a given piece. In this respect, the tala improvisations on percussion instruments should be considered an integral part of the Solo 58 performance, providing at times a rhythmic canvas for the singer and elsewhere an independent, parallel interpretation of the given tala. As a result, our various melodic and rhythmic interpretations often overlap fully or in part (for instance, through the use of time brackets), creating unplanned synchronic interpretations or superimpositions.

Structure: Timeframes and a Garland of Ragas

When one listens to Indian music, it never has a beginning and it has no end. You know that the music is going on all the time, and the consciousness of the musician just dips down into the music, picks it up with the instrument, and reads it again. (Campbell 198)

Another clearly perceivable deviation from tradition is the episodic and fragmented character of our Cagean ragas, as opposed to the continuous flow of drone/voice/percussion we find in Indian music. This calls for a different kind of attention from performer and listener alike and introduces pauses and silences, unusual features in contemporary raga/tala renditions. Such pauses are indicative of the kinds of normally forbidden elements that have entered into our ragas, often through the use of chance procedures. In my own view, the resulting breaks in the flow, as well as moments of overlap and superimposition, actually concern only the surface of the musical event. At another level, the individual ragas and talas flow uninterrupted maintaining their own peculiarities and distinct character.

The order in which the ragas are presented has been worked out with the support of chance operations
and time brackets, resulting in occasional overlapping and superimpositions. Following Cage’s general instructions for the Song Books, other Solos (with electronics) and parts of Solo 58 itself have been superimposed on some of the 18 microtonal ragas.

In this recording, a raga never reaches the lengthy duration of a traditional performance (usually between
20 minutes and 1 hour or longer). Since I have taken up the task to record the whole Solo 58 — consisting of 18 microtonal ragas — the duration of each raga had necessarily to be limited. For this purpose, I have taken inspiration from the masterly 78 rpm recordings of famous musicians of the past where, in just three minutes, they were able to effectively evoke the raga’s personality.

I have also decided to join 4 of the 18 ragas—numbers 11, 13, 15 and 7—in a ragamala fashion (garland of ragas). My own treatment, though, differs from the customary ragamala renditions in which various ragas’ phrases are freely mixed. Because of the peculiarities of Cage’s ragas, I have joined various segments of the 4 selected ragas relating to various tessituras in my voice (all of the 4 ragas are based on my natural tonic) and improvised with the resulting scale covering my entire singing range. A talamala has naturally developed from this coming together of the 4 pieces, allowing also tala superimpositions.

Rasa and Memories

The texts on which I improvise the ragas in Solo 58 are from a variety of sources: following Cage’s
instructions, some have been written by me in different languages and/or include vocalizing, a widely used technique in Indian singing. In other instances, I have followed some of Cage’s own methods such as creating texts by selecting words from my own repertoire by means of chance procedures. In some ragas, I have chosen the self-referential approach and quoted from Alain Daniélou’s works* in various languages. In one instance—“raga 16”—we have used text with a purely rhythmic function. Here, Federico Sanesi has integrated poems by his late father, Roberto, with the traditional recitation of tabla’s onomatopoeic language.

In his directions, Cage states: “think either of the morning, the afternoon or the evening, giving a description or account of recent pleasures or beauties noticed.” This is an obvious reference to some well known Indian aesthetic principles that are typically taken into account while rendering ragas: the so-called rasa theory—sap, emotional flavor, aesthetic experience—and the time theory—associating ragas with a specific time of the day/night cycle or with a season. However, these are both controversial theories in modern India and Cage gives his contribution to the discussion by, characteristically, abandoning any traditional model and leaving the interpreter free to find his own associations. Moreover, he clearly diverges from the classical Indian approach to ‘static emotions’ (rasas) by directing the singer to focus on the memory of personal experiences. The resulting friction between the individualistic western attitude to “describe pleasures and beauties noticed” and the more impersonal treatment of rasa embedded in the raga tradition encourages further speculations. By narrowing the “description or account” to the more rewarding kind of experiences such as “pleasures or beauties noticed,” Cage echoes the prescribed avoidance in Indian music of unpleasant and destructive emotions. For example, the rasas of disgust, fury and fear are nowadays only used in theatre and dance, never in a purely musical performance. On the other hand, the experimental and anarchistic treatment of ragas in Song Books leads to a loosening up of the connections between rasas and specific intervals or modes. As intervals that are deeply dissonant to the Indian ear, such as a flat octave or a very high fourth, come into play, rasas become much less classifiable and standardized, allowing Cage’s ragas to acquire new colorings and hues. In essence, Cage’s approach allows the performer to draw on his own experiences, and combine them with the discipline of performance to foster the growth of new and unpredictable rasas.

* Daniélou is a well-known French indologist, musicologist and producer who has greatly contributed to the exposure of the Indian musical and philosophical tradition in the West.


Cage’s directions in “Solo for Voice 58” allow endless possibilities, at the same time imposing restrictions that encourage analysis, reflection and deliberate decisions. For me, this process has resulted in an enriching interplay of unconventional, subversive elements with the disciplined and symbolic thinking inherited from the tradition. It has involved letting loose established patterns and assumptions by taking nothing for granted. And it has allowed chance-determined tunings to open up new landscapes, and commonly accepted rules to acquire new meaning and purpose. I marvel at these novel ragas and talas and have learned to love their eccentricities and welcome their radical, unconventional personalities.

Working so intensively in this rather uncomfortable spot, where I could not rely upon familiar and recognizable forms, has been at times unsettling. All the carefully learned structures, ratios, aural and emotional correspondences, the effective tools and strategies for improvisation which are an integral part of this oral tradition, could only be partly exploited in support of Cage’s ragas. In the tradition, the practical function of these conventions is to let the music maker and listener dive deeper and deeper into that non-verbal state of communion and achieve a rich and fulfilling aesthetic experience. By performing ragas only according to their customary development, there is no emphasis laid on musical forms (as in western classical ‘compositions’). The conventional structures are not the contribution of individual genius and artistic creativity; they are devices, refined by generations of artists, for the sake of allowing ragas to be effectively manifested.

Although I am aware of and fully appreciate most of the principles underlying the contemporary practice of raga, my experience with Solo 58 has lead to some thought-provoking results. I have realized that the concepts of raga and tala can be manifested in an endless variety of ways, that even ‘experimental’ ragas may take on a meaningful shape and be effectively evoked. I think John Cage’s intuition and genius have been wonderfully at work in this piece, and I wish to credit him with the most successful attempt, at least to my knowledge, to experiment with ragas and talas with great care and respect for the tradition but without any quoting or borrowing from it. By ignoring customary and formal precepts, he has emancipated them from accumulated cultural and historical bindings, projected them into a truly cross-cultural dimension and evidenced their potential as ‘open musical forms’. He has reconnected them to their original meaning (that which colors the mind) without looking backwards, but rather by freeing their innate generative power.

Having gone through a laborious process of reflection and re-evaluation, I can now distance myself somewhat from the work and observe its effects on my own music: I see hints of a new sense of freedom, confidence and openness, of a finer sensibility which has broadened the range and scope of my musical expression and the understanding of the tradition which has nurtured me. I also feel somewhat emancipated from certain authoritarian aspects of Indian music practice, which have developed as a socio-historical constraint. I can even affirm feeling closer now to the spirit of the music, as if the de-conditioning process has revealed a more cosmopolitan, magnanimous quality of raga-ness pregnant with exciting potentials and unexpected implications. Last but not least, I feel I am better able to integrate my Western roots and Eastern influences in my music and personality, enjoying the frictions they generate as a powerful stimulus for creativity.

It is difficult to put all this into words. Paradoxically, I can say I have developed and practiced Cage’s ragas and talas with a constant awareness of the approaches and interpretations that might depart too far from the qualities of raga and tala; this vigilant process has been full of wonder. I hope I have been able to do justice to this marvelous work and that my realization shows Cage’s ragas as organic musical beings grown out of seeds of joy and discipline.

Cage, John. “An Autobiographical Statement.” Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX. 17 April 1990. 2 July 2007 < http://www.newalbion.com/artists/cagej/autobiog.html>.
Cage, John. Song Books. New York: C.F. Peters Corporation, 1970.
Campbell, Joseph. Mythic Worlds, Modern Words. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2004.
Clayton, Martin. Time In Indian Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Pritchett, James. The Music of John Cage. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Score excerpts from Song Books reprinted with permission from C.F. Peters Corporation, Glendale, NY.

edited by Adam Fong/OTHER MINDS

‘When one listens to Indian music, it never has a beginning or an end. You know that the music is going on all the time, and the consciousness of the musician just deeps down into the music, picks it up with the instrument, and reads it again.’
(Joseph Campbell in Mythic Worlds, Modern Worlds)

My sincere thanks go to all the collaborators and co-producers of this project. I am grateful to Christian Kesten and Steffi Weissmann (Die Maulwerker), William Brooks (Music Department, University of York), Laura Kuhn (The John Cage Trust) and Terry Riley for encouragement and advise; Charles Amirkhanian and Other Minds for their support and collaboration on the future CD production, the Alain Daniélou Foundation and Jacques Cloarec for the permission to use quotations from Danielou’s publications as text for some of the ragas.
Moreover, my sincere thanks to: Sandeep Bhagawati, Jürgen Grözinger, Rob Haskins, Petr Kotik, Roland Pfrengle, James Pritchett, Ernst-Albrecht Stiebler.

For updates on this project, tour schedules etc, please see under NEWS in the main menue.

>audio/video demo available on request

...In fact, these pieces seem to be written for Amelia Cuni: a classical trained Indian singer, who is able to improvise on ragas also in a New Music context – a very rare combination indeed!

Ulrich Krieger

selected quotes from the international press

Il risultato, tanto meditato quanto raffinato, è un originalissimo distillato di emozioni, governate dalla presenza ravvicinata e senza veli della voce di Amelia Cuni, limpida e flessuosa come il giunco (...) Un incontro fra Cage e l'Oriente che pochi forse avrebbero immaginato così suadente, diretto, eterodosso comunque lo si guardi, da New York o da New Delhi.

Giordano Montecchi, il giornale della musica, Sept. 2008

Cage meant the performer to evoke the spirit of Indian music but Cuni brings matters full circuit by realizing the piece as one intimately versed in the tradition’s techniques and microtonal inflections. Cage provides a microtonal skeleton and Cuni manipulates the minuscule micro-divisions between notes wit an innate ease that Western performers can take as a measure for the future. The result is a profoundly authentic, Apollonian beauty.


The Other Minds CD presents vocalist Amelia Cuni's fascinating interpretation of John Cage's microtonal Ragas. (...) Cuni and her collaborators ... are absolutely up to the task. The singer brings an intriguingly diverse cultural and musical background to this project of mixed Italian and German heritage ... indeed, each piece presents new melodies in vastly different registers, requiring inventiveness and prowess from the vocalist. (...) She has been performing the work for six years, and this riveting recording is a testament to her dedication.

Marc Medwin, Signal to Noise, June 2008

Im klassischen Dhrupad-Gesang hat (Amelia Cuni) es zu einer Virtuosität gebracht, dass sie selbst in Indien respektiert wird. (…) Eingebettet in ein feingliedriges Klangdesign aus Elektronik und Perkussion trägt Cuni die Melodien mit expressivem Gestus vor. Ihre Stimme setzt so einfühlsam ein, dass sie die feinsten Stimungsregungen der Ragas zum Ausdruck bringt.

Christoph Wagner in Jazzthetik, June 2008

The melodic modulations and the use of rhythm come together in the vision of Amelia Cuni, great interpreter, with dance, gestures, body and hand movements and facial expressions contextualizing the whole and giving the music a scenic dimention without jeopardizing it. The voice is accompanied by percussion and electronics, which become protagonists too in their own right, especially when like last night, they are realized by as exceptionally rare virtuosi as Ray Kaczynski, Federico Sanesi and Werner Durand. A discovery, so to speak, another aspect of the multiple and fascinating world of John Cage.

EL PAÍS - Cultura, April 2006

But Cuni's singing is what should make her a sensation in various new, world, experimental and alternative music scenes. She is essentially an Indian vocalist with Italian flair, theatricality and technique. This is a new kind of hybrid singing, and it is stunning. (...) Hers is a huge array of vocal effects impressively disciplined. The ragas were not quite of India, not quite of Thoreau's Concord or anyplace else. They seemed more from an Asian subcontinent that is everywhere. (...) An excellent CD document of Cuni's performance of "18 Microtonal Ragas" has just been released on Other Minds Records.

Mark Swed in Los Angeles Times November 2007

A singer and composer living in Berlin, Cuni is a rarity — a Western woman who has spent a decade in India studying North Indian dhrupad singing and kathak dance. She is that uncommon artist who is equally comfortable in the oft-discomforting realms of contemporary multimedia musical collaboration and in the traditional world of Indian raga. (...) When I listened to the CD in the relative comfort of my own home, I was tempted to drop all program notes, close my eyes, and trance out. Such is the all-encompassing nature of Cuni’s realization. (...) A traditional review has no place here. Get the CD. Read first, then listen. There’s nothing like it.

Jason Serinus in San Francisco Classical Voice, November 2007