John Cage: Giving up con­trol over our ex­pe­ri­ence.

From Silence:

For over twenty years I have been writ­ing ar­ti­cles and giv­ing lec­tures … just hear about it.

In other words he’s chang­ing the form of lec­tur­ing, you’re not hear­ing about the ex­pe­ri­ence you’re hav­ing it.

1948 lec­ture at Black Mountain College

With Beethoven the parts of a com­po­si­tion were de­fined by har­mony. With Satie and Webern they were de­fined by means of time lengths. The ques­tion of struc­ture is so ba­sic, and it is so im­por­tant to be in agree­ment with it.

Vexations by Eric Satie. 20 bars of mu­sic, with in­struc­tions to re­peat it 800 times. Cage ad­mired this for tak­ing the ro­man­ti­cism out of mu­sic, mak­ing it more in­tel­lec­tual.

A rare pho­to­graph of Cage con­duct­ing:

Cage did­n’t like con­duc­tors, he wanted or­ches­tra play­ers to play as in­di­vid­u­als. His part­ner Merce Cunningham had sim­i­lar ideas about dance - re­mov­ing the nar­ra­tive el­e­ment. He says in the Dancer and the Dance

Time didnt have to be mea­sured in me­ter, but it could be mea­sured in min­utes …

[45′ for a speaker]

Cunningham, Cage and Robert Rauschenberg were part of the first Happening in 1960. Cage at Juliard (in the 60s):

… a piece of string, a sun­set: each acts.

[canned chance]

The string pos­si­bly a ref­er­ence to Canned Chance by Marcel Duchamp. Three 1.00 me­tre lengths of string dropped from 1.00 me­tre in height onto a me­tre rule. We see him us­ing these rules in stud­ies for the large glass


[] Man Ray, Dust Breeding

4′33″ (1952)

The piece is­n’t about si­lence, but about mu­si­cians not play­ing. Note that it ac­tu­ally comes in three move­ments - all very pre­cisely planned out.

The large glass is fun­da­men­tally about trans­parency - Cage’s work sim­i­lar. See for in­stance Fontana Mix (1958).

Atrlas Eclipticalis (1962) is an early at­tempt to pro­ject a star chart onto a score. Of­ten these scores would come with pages of writ­ten in­struc­tions to help mu­si­cians read the score.

Cunningham also goes be­yond stan­dard forms of dance no­ta­tion. If we base every­thing around du­ra­tion, we can work to­gether with other dis­ci­plines: Cunningham work­ing with video.

Variations V (1965) A col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Cunningham and Cage. Using prox­im­ity sen­sors and cam­eras (the 1960s ver­sions of those things) to have dancers trig­ger sound events. Basically the en­tire mu­si­cal avant garde of the 60s were work­ing on this piece to­gether: Paik, VanDerBeek, David Tudor, Max Matthews, Bob Moog.

Robert Watts: Event Scores

Casual Event

Drive car to filling station
Inflate right front tire
Continue to inflate until tire blows out
Change tire
Drive home

Pina Bausch (1978): Cafe Muller

In Empy Words (in the 1970s), Cage ex­plores non-syn­tac­ti­cal de­mil­i­tarised lan­guage.

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