Tuesday, March 31, 2009

We have plenty to say and we are saying it and that is poetry

John Cage has been coming up in conversation a lot lately, three times in as many days

  • The country musician with which I toasted my birthday surprisingly mentioned him when we were talking about songwriting, saying there are people like John Cage that have really good ideas that need to be put out there so that someone else can come along and make something better out of them. I tend to agree, I have been a fan of his ideas for a long time, though I admit having a hard time enjoying his music.
  • This sentiment was echoed by another friend in defense, who said she enjoyed his more "musical" pieces, which we both thought was funny. I interviewed John Cage on Valentine's Day in 1992, when he was a guest composer at the LSU School of music. I took off from work to go to his lecture where he talked about how eventually the economy would get so bad that it would cease to exist, and we would then be forced to do the work that we were called to do, so why not start doing that work now in preparation, and that, more than any of his musical theories has stuck with me ever since. I had him sign an album or a book, I can't remember, and asked if he would be interested in being interviewed on the radio, and his handler butted in, "John we have that reception, and you are going to be tired." He brushed her off and asked if I would come pick him up at 8. He was exceedingly polite, lauding praise on a friend of mine who had a piece performed at one of the concerts that took place that week. he patiently answered our questions, largely some of the same ones he'd been answering for decades and told a story about walking through a park with Morton Feldman and seeing a firetruck drive very slowly through the neighborhood with its lights flashing but no siren. They followed it for a coupel of blocks until it turned off its lights and sped off. "It was a quiet fire engine."
  • Cage's notorious silent piece 4' 33" is the iTunes Discovery Download (link will open in iTunes). Here is one of the many performances of it on YouTube

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