Saturday, January 19

not making music, but listening

White Painting by Robert Rauschenberg (Guggenheim Museum)

Christopher Coppola's JC Meditation 001

In the nature of the use of chance operations is the belief that all answers answer all questions.

-- John Cage I-VI

In 1952, David Tudor sat down in front of a piano for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and did nothing. The piece 4'33'' written by John Cage, is possibly the most famous and important piece in twentieth century avant-garde. 4'33'' was a distillation of years of working with found sound, noise, and alternative instruments. In one short piece, Cage broke from the history of classical composition and proposed that the primary act of musical performance was not making music, but listening. [more]

John Cage's 4'33" by David Tudor

another 4'33"

From a review of Evgeny Kissin: John Cage 4'33" (DVD): The Stokowski transcription is a first performance and therefore of great interest. It was his last work and only discovered well after his death in 1977. The orchestral size is the same as for his Bach transcriptions but with added tubas. Some may consider that this over-romanticises the purity of Cage's essentially classical conception but I enjoyed it immensely. With regard to the orchestra – who have to pass a large clock round every one of the players without making a sound in exactly 4’33" – this work brings as big a challenge to them as any of Ives’s more extreme utterances. The New York Philharmonic mostly manages it with aplomb (apart from one of the violas who almost dropped the clock) in what was apparently an encore after a stirring performance of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto. Serebrier (a protégé of Stokowski) presides with authority – he starts off with the clock and at the very end it finally reaches Kissin just before the crowd goes wild.

Art may be practiced in one way or another, so that it reinforces the ego in its likes and dislikes, or so that it opens that mind to the world outside, and outside inside. Since the forties and through the study with D.T. Suzuki of the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, I've thought of music as a means of changing the mind. I saw art not as something that consisted of a communication from the artist to an audience but rather as an activity of sounds in which the artist found a way to let the sounds be themselves. And, in being themselves, to open the minds of people who made them or listened to them to other possibilities than they had previously considered.

-- John Cage, quoted by Larry J. Solomon here

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