Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Worth Seeking (VII)

As an appendix to my previous, very long post, I'd like to share with you the following film from the YouTube archives, a wonderful clip of John Cage performing a piece called 'Water Walk'. Cage died on August 12th, 1992, yet is still an extraordinarily divisive figure in the arts. An astonishingly prolific and hard-working composer, writer, printmaker, performer, and mushroom enthusiast, Cage is still most famous (or notorious) for the silent piece, 4'33" (which can still send musical conservatives into frenzies of rage) and once stated that the ultimate aim of music should be to "introduce us to the very life we are living and that we are able without scores without performers and so forth simply ... [to] sit still [and] listen to the sounds that surround us and hear them as music." (A Year From Monday, p.46). Interestingly, one can easily picture a contemporary audience and presenter reacting as those in the fifties did. Enjoy!

9 comments:

Claudia said...

I didn't want to come here before listening to 4'33...
It's very hard to listen to silence...Actually, pure silence doesn't exist. I think that's what John Cage wanted us to hear.

I liked first to look at your presentation. Then I heard just the sounds. The rhythm is surprising. When I was listening, it was raining. And drops of water were falling on a metal roof outside. And the noise it made entered Cage's composition. He would have loved it as he welcomed the sound of laughter from the audience.

He is so very right about all sounds being music. I often thought that a walk in the wood was a symphony of beauty to my ears. A walk on a busy street can create a nightmarish Opus. Many composers have attempted to imitate those sounds. John Cage allows us to hear them, and write our own composition.

He is a marvellous man. And he is not gone...Many, many thanks for this post.

A Doubtful Egg said...

What I liked about the video was that it showed Cage's sense of humour, and I love his quote about "laughter being preferable to tears".
Have you seen the prints he made in the 1980s? Some of them are very beautiful, and can be seen at the Crown Point Press website.

Claudia said...

Thanks. The watercolors are great. I felt I was floating in a mesmerizing, undefined space. They are very much like his musical compositions. They have no limits and no restrictions. He is giving you the freedom of interpretation. I would say that the definition of his art depends entirely on the participation of the viewer or the listener. It varies with each person. Because of that, it's almost entirely new everytime it's seen, or played.

A Doubtful Egg said...

It's a shame that Cage's visual work hasn't really received the scrutiny that his music has, and I always love drawing people's attention to them (I discovered them in college, as I wrote my thesis on Cage's work). I have a copy of the Crown Point Press book To Sober and Quiet the Mind (wonderful title, isn't it?) which has both ample illustrations and details of Cage's phenomenally complex and intricate working methods (one print could utilise nearly 300 tiny plates, each one positioned by chance procedures!) If I were to become rich, I'd definitely be on a plane to California to buy me one! I'm glad you like them.

Claudia said...

He is not only a great artist but also a deep philosopher. I enjoy reading his quotations. Each one offers an original vision on some tired, old thought. And, as you say, he has a great sense of humour. I will try to find him at my library.

It must have been very interesting to write your thesis on such a fascinating man.

Thank you for sharing him with us.

Sean Jeating said...

Glorious! Absolutely glorious. Thanks.

I wonder if you heard about the John-Cage-project ORGAN² ASLSP in Halberstadt, that I advertised here.

If not I hope you will enjoy.

A Doubtful Egg said...

Although I'd already heard of ORGAN2 ASLAP, I wasn't aware of your excellent post on the same! Thanks for reminding me of the former, and drawing my attention to the latter...

Stan said...

I remember seeing this on WFMU, and am happy to be reminded of it, and to watch it again alongside these interesting comments. I love Cage's sudden transformation after the performance, from intense concentration to relaxed delight. If his playful sounds broadened even one audience member's interpretation of music, it surely made up for the chorus of baffled hoots.

A Doubtful Egg said...

Welcome to A Doubtful Egg, Stan! And I'm glad you liked the video.