A permanent installation that features a rarely heard performance by John Cage, and will evolve over time through participation from the public


How to Get Started - Live at Symphony Space

Symphony Space and PEN World Voices Festival join Slought and John Cage Trust in reviving John Cage's "How To Get Started" (1989) for the first time in New York

Fields of Knowledge
  • Artistic legacies
  • Performance

Organizing Institutions

PEN World Voices Festival, Symphony Space, Slought, John Cage Trust


Laura Kaminsky, Jakab Orsos, Laura Kuhn, Aaron Levy


Arthur J. Sabatini, Ken Saylor, Peter Price, Project Projects

Process initiated


Opens to public



Thalia Theater
Symphony Space
2537 Broadway at
95th Street NY, NY

On the web



50% Formal - 50% Informal

In honor of John Cage's centennial, PEN festival and Symphony Space join forces with the John Cage Trust and Slought Foundation to revive for the first time ever in New York, John Cage's 1989 work How To Get Started--a collaborative experiment that explores improvisation and the origin of ideas. In the piece, Cage took the stage with ten note cards, shuffled the deck and spoke 'off the cuff' for no more than three minutes on each idea. His monologue was recorded in collaboration with engineers and looped back as the next card was addressed, creating a complex acoustic layering of his ideas. All events will take place at Symphony Space in New York City.

As an audience member, you are invited to join our featured performers and contribute your own thoughts to the official archive of How to Get Started through a lottery selection (here to download instructions). Dare to think aloud in front of a live audience and your favorite literary celebrities!

Before you come, visit howtogetstarted.org or the permanent installation at Slought in Philadelphia.

read more

Performance Schedule

May 4th, 2012: Minds from across the arts - including Etgar Keret, David Harrington (Kronos Quartet), Aleksandar Hemon, Sonia Sanchez - will perform How to Get Started in this daylong 'happening'. Following their performances, they engage in conversation.

November 15, 2012: Writer and actor Wallace Shawn and and composer and professor Allen Shawn will perform How to Get Started. They share a family history, both as brothers and sons of the legendary editor of The New Yorker, William Shawn, as well as a professional collaboration (they have created an opera together, The Music Teacher). Following their performances, they engage in conversation.

December 13, 2012: Former Poet Laureate, currently poetry editor at Slate, poet, essayist, literary critic, translator, and jazz aficionado Robert Pinsky, and the pop-folk singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding, a.k.a the novelist Wesley Stace, author of Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer will perform How to Get Started. Following their performances, they engage in conversation.

April 2, 2013: Artist and conceptualist Ralph Lemon and Grammy Award-winning Founder and Artistic Director of the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance Arturo O'Farrill will perform How to Get Started. Following their performances, they engage in conversation.


Presented by PEN World Voices Festival and Symphony Space, and produced by Slought Foundation and John Cage Trust

Dramaturgy - Aaron Levy
Staging and Scenography - Ken Saylor
Sound Design and Programming - Peter Price
Graphic Design - Project Projects

How to Get Started at Symphony Space is adapted for the theater from the the installation at Slought, which was curated by Laura Kuhn, John Cage Trust; Aaron Levy, Slought Foundation; and Arthur J. Sabatini, Arizona State University.

How to Get Started at Symphony Space is co-sponsored by American Express, Office of Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Israel, and Peter Norton Symphony Space.

Related publications

Artist John Cage performs How to Get Started (1989), in which he explores the usefulness of improvisation and engages in an experiment with thinking in public, before a live audience.

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