[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[F_MINOR] John Cage

Um-- I vote that Cage is a serious artist worth attention.  I also vote
that he is not. One of the things that seems to be missing from
discussions of Cage on f_minor is that he was a poet and a composer and
a mushroom expert and many other things.  He had a terrific sense of
humor and often found the most mundane things profound.  His
observations challenge me all the time. Cage was influenced to a degree
by Zen Buddhism and the compositions people seem to find most absurd of
his seem very much to me like Zen koans.  I have a friend who is a
serious Zen practitioner.  She once held up her hand and said "what do
you see?" and I pointed to her fingers and I said "um, well, um, a
HAND!"  She said "that is the difference between you and me-- I see the
space between the fingers and around the hand."  Deep.

I love Cage's audacity-- playing multiple radios on stage for example--
and challenging people to listen to the crosstalk and music. This is
many, many years before the ST.  His assertion that the audience is part
of the art of live performance led the way for a generation of
performance artists. The sheer number of contemporary artists and
performers who have been influenced by Cage, taught by him-- is vast.
The art world would be a different place had he not lived and worked.
And this may be the issue.  If you are a "classical" music fan and you
approach his work as music, it is possible you won't be impressed.  It's
not by coincidence that his lasting influence has been mainly on artists
and performance artists. His intellectual observations about sound seem,
on the surface, gimmicky. What does silence, for example, have to do
with music?  But if you think about it-- think deeper you'll realize
silence has EVERYTHING to do with music.  Music is what happens between
the notes-- who said that?   Live performance includes all the things GG
tried hopelessly to control-- coughing, clapping, creaking chairs,
moaning pianists-- well I guess GG was selective about what constituted
"superfluous" sounds.

It's easy to look at say-- a Jackson Pollack painting for example-- and
dismiss it with a "my 3 year old kid could do that!"  To me-- that's not
so interesting.  I want to see in his paintings what I can see. (Look
closely-- cat hair, beer cans...) I want to look at him as an artist
that is part of aesthetic, philosophical and political history.  It
doesn't mean that looking at a Pollack will change my life but someone
else with a different sensibility could see it and have an epiphany.
You don't have to color between the lines!  You can experiment with
color or disregard classic notions about it!  The painting is more than
the object on canvas that is the result of the paint drying!  The MOMENT
of painting is part of the painting itself (been cans or for that matter
squeaky chairs and moaning pianists)  The painter and the time of the
painting is part of the art!

Gould took Cage seriously.  He didn't think the concert stage was the
best medium for much of Cage's work (I disagree) and even said that Cage
should be working with radio as his primary medium (I'm paraphrasing
here).  Now Gould took radio pretty seriously as I'm sure we can all
agree... GG demonstrates a good deal of ambivalence about Cage's work.
Perhaps it was because Cage studied under Schoenberg.  Maybe Cage's work
was one possible extension of what happens when you free yourself from
tonality.  I don't know.

Mary Jo Watts,
listowner f_minor

Signoff instructions, and user preference interface:

F_minor Website (with early archive):