Composers: Far-Out at the Philharmonic

Was it the Tik-Tok Man of Oz? Was it a windup Leonard Bernstein? Whatever it was, a machine conducted the New York Philharmonic last week in a performance of John Cage's Atlas Elipticalis with Winter Music (Electronic Version). And considering what it was conducting, it probably did every bit as well as any human conductor could.

Cage's mechanical maestro had a diamond-shaped head perched on a 6-ft. pedestal, with a single arm rigged to make one complete revolution in eight minutes, the duration of the piece. It was the crowning gimmick of...

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