You are on page 1of 6

Beatricia Elda S.

Tuanquin
THR5
From Introduction: "When attending to music we use our cultural experience to
decode significance. When attending to Cage we perceive chance and nonintentionality
and therefore our cultural experience is phantasmagoric at best, useless at worst.
Harvey imagined Cage as a complete Buddhist, a shining example but found he never
enjoyed the sound of Cage after Music of Changes. He also questioned the worrying
dualism in Cages practice where he opposes chance to control, carefully eliminating the
latter. Harvey quoted Alan Watts in justification: For Zen there is no duality, no
conflict between the natural element of chance and the human element of control."
[phantasmagoric - a confusing or strange scene that is like a dream because it is always
changing in an odd way]
In this passage, we can recognize Cage's intentions and beliefs regarding culture and
music. His intentions was to remove identity of culture in music. It reflects his beliefs as
Buddhist, although that may be debatable.
"So you're really like the naughty child who wants to know how far he can go before he
gets smacked?" "Perhaps."
From Cage and Friends (Chapter 1): "I know, but for someone to come from another
country and to know the English language better than we didwhich he didwas just
fantastic. I mean, it just added to his musicality. His treatment of language, his insistence
on the fine points of language. He would ask us a question and we would give one
answer after another, all of which displeased him. Then, when he finally accepted an
answer or gave us the true answer, we would tend to say, Oh, but we said that earlier
with another word. And then he would show us that the other word was not the same."
It shows that language, especially learning it, can be related to musicality in regards to
articulation, and identity. No music is the same; even if you play a piece as another
person plays it as well, no matter how identical your interpretations, it is not the same.
"When I came to work with modern dancers they were revolting against following the
music
as the ballet had done, and they wanted the music to follow the dance. When I saw that
there was this kind of political situation rampant, what I wanted to provide was a space
of time that was empty of both music and dance, which could have both arts go into it
independent of one another. So that there wouldnt be a hierarchical situation. And thats
what the rhythmic structure was."
Clashing with different arts, discrepancies does not necessarily provide hierarchy.
Formation of hierarchy in the arts is socially driven. It depends on their interest, and the
era they are in.

"Bob Price and I picked Cage up at the airport and drove to Bobs house, where he
would stay. Bob was driving an antique Datsun that was, lets face it, a lump of junk. I
was always amazed it ever made it anywhere. Its noises were too numerous to describe.
Everything inside rattled and squeaked, while the engine produced an inspiring array of
percussive sounds. At one point, there was such a loud chunk under the hood, I looked
at Bob and he let out a nervous chuckle. When we thankfully reached Bobs place, I
wondered what our guest thought of his limo. As he exited the car, Cage broke the tension
by saying, Your car is a symphony. After that, we called it the Cage Mobile.
I was in the northwest corner of Horchow Auditorium the evening of that performance.
My principal contribution to the Cage piece, as I recall, was an eight-orbit
circumnavigation of the audience at breakneck speed while playing the highest note of
my accordion. Cage also came on stage and sat in a chair next to the cellist and, mostly,
engaged in Tibetan throat singing while we played his simple score, including cells of
three or four notes and instructions like play your lowest note as long as possible and
play only what others are not. I remember the night as electric, a capacity crowd,
turning away almost as many as sat in a rather sweaty theater."
Tracing back to the Romantic Theory with regards to Hegel's view on music as
intersubjective, music, in inviting identification with the composer's feelings and hence
self-recognition on the part of the listener, naturally combines two processes, for
perception of music is not an intellectual matter or rational process but an absorbing
identification, a natural empathy with its significance. While in Cage's case, music can
come from anywhere.
"Are you looking so far forward that the worlds cultures have really become one and that
our ways of thinking have actually become merged so that we can take on a global
attitude toward events?"
"My tendency is to think that our experience, particularly nowadays, is extremely
complex, so I dont think we can come to one idea."
In this exchange, the question itself is rather interesting. The continuity of music was
culture-driven, especially the beginning of formation of society came along with arts;
that's why culture and arts are often used as a phrase, or can be considered as one word.
While society develops into something complex out of combinitions of culture, whether it
is from outcomes of wars (nationalistic tendencies), approved rights (interracial
relationships), or outright exploring (travelling the world, or in Debussy's case, visiting
conventions), music develops along with it; it can become either a fusion of musical
identities, or a cultural blur wherein you cannot really tell where the music came from.
(notable example: 4'33") However, this does not imply that music can become one idea.
Rather, it is far from it, given not only the different cultures, but also from old to new
beliefs growing.
"I believe the use of noise to make music will continue and increase"
More than a decade later. "The reason I am less and less interested in music is ... that I
find environmental sounds and noises more useful aesthetically than the sounds produced

by the world's musical cultures.


It's the presence in those sounds of non-intention and the awful presence of intention in
music that makes the non-intentional, ambient sound more useful. By more useful I mean
less irritating."
Basically, John Cage wants music to be unpredictable.
Chapter 2 - Merce Cunningham: "A coexistence where one is not more prominent
necessarily than the other or one does not support the other. They just coexist."
"John has always allowed for the idea of noise as one of the sound elements in music,
which has nothing to do with harmony. He has evolved another way of working with what
sound does, then has found ways to use that. From the beginning he spoke about dance
and music as time arts, occupying lenghts of time."
In this chapter, Cunningham discusses the possibilty of dance being independent to
music, and her inventions on it.
"Would you say John influenced the art world?"
"Oh yes. By his ideas - either because people don't like them or they do. I think that by
his presence and his continued concern with visual things as well as writing, he has
affected artists."
Evident in the dawn of electronic music, not only John Cage's music raised questions but
also driven composers and artists of other fields were more or less influenced to think
more outside of the box as musicians had always done. He ignited another spark for the
eccentric attempts of creating new music.
Chapter 4 - David Tudor: "How much do you feel that with indeterminacy the performer
is half the composer or even more?"
"I have to say that for me the differences really disappear. I think that's the change that
has come about. Nowadays we have a situation that is more comparable to the Oriental
difference between composer and performer. The one doesn't exist without the other. The
European tradition has led us to believe that the composer is the only inspiration,
whereas it's not true. Anybody's music can only exist when it's brought to life."
In the Romantic theory wherein this was also debated, the interactive response of the
composer, performer, and listener, according to Tudor, is implied that the intentions and
responses of the three coexist.
"How far has your experience with Cage's music propelled you into being a composer
yourself?"
"By doing it and dealing with the problems, you begin to have a feeling for what
composition really is. I recall one work was his Variations II. It can be performed on any
instruments - or no instruments, actually! I had been working to see that I had to
consider it as a completely new instrument. Therefore if you try to tabulate settings of
electronic equipment in relation to ordinary acoustic parameters, you're dealing with

conditions that are not precise in the way you're accustomed to think of precision."
Not only composers were affected, but also performers. The traditional ways of
performing were always to think of how the instrument is used. In this case, the social
construct of instrument as medium were broadened into individualistic and universal
construct.
"The important thing is that he's changed people's hearing, and that's going to remain
with us for the future."
Again, this implied the spark of a daring era caused by John Cage.
Chapter 5 - Jackson Mac Low: "[John Cage] is a kind of anarchist."
Anarchists believe that the point of society is to widen the choices of individuals. This is
the axiom upon which the anarchist case is founded. If you were isolated you would still
have the human ability to make decisions, but the range of viable decisions would be
severely restricted by the environment. Society, however it is organised, gives individuals
more opportunities, and anarchists think this is what society is for. They do not think
society originated in some kind of conscious social contract, but see the widening of
individual choices as the function of social instincts. This may be compared to John
Cage's composition processes.
Chapter 6 - Minna Lederman: "It was percussion music, and what made it spectacular
enough to catch the attention of Conde Nast Publications were the non-musical
instruments in use - some kitchen utensils and carpentry."
Non-instrumental compositions are now prominent today, especially in film scoring.
"One has to bear in mind [John Cage's] approach to the East. He does not recognize the
imitations of the East - the incorporation of Eastern tricks and turns. That isn't it. It's the
spirit - and he's against harmony and counterpoint. That is where he's marked off from
Western music, a specific difference he used to stress a great deal."
"Some people think his ideas and writings are more influential than his music."
His ideologies were indeed noteworthy of changing or adding perspectives when it comes
to music. Admittedly, his music is not for entertainment but for the purpose of idea
inducing, nearly corresponds to the Romantic Theory.
Chapter 7 - Virgil Thomson: "[John Cage's] reasons [for wanting to get himself out of
his music] are perfectly sensible. He wanted his music to be based on what he called the
processes of nature rather than the personalized expressivity that had dominated music
since Renaissance times ... He would give you examples from Eastern practice,
particularly Indian. He even went so far to recommend to his students that they should
not study harmony and counterpoint."
"What the hell is innovation anyway, which he doesn't describe except in his own
subjective terms?"
This concerns the debate of the identity of the individual's music.

Chapter 8 - Otto Luening: "[John Cage] latched onto the dance as a more direct way of
writing than a symphonic work with the whole apparatus of copying, the conductor's
green room, the audience finding it different from Brahms, the reviewers ... Creativity can
get lost. John got tired of it and saw that you can have fun and artistic experiences at this
other level."
It described the peculiar approach of John Cage's music as it helps to deviate, and
encourages creativity, especially dance is vastly different from a symphonic work. A
symphonic work, as well as other form of chamber music, can be described as formulaic;
it requires a composer to think of the instruments first before the intentions of the
composer.
Chapter 9 - Karlheinz Stockhausen: "I feel that many artists, philosophers, poets, and
painter whom I lnow have become involved with Zen and are spiritually wonderful
people, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are great artists ... I have always doubted
his musicianship since I knew him. He has no inner vision: he doesn't hear."
Stockhausen believed that a musician, wherein sound is concerned (Sound is something
that one hears), begins to be a musician when he hears something nobody else hears;
Cage was more of an idealist than a musician. "I'm talking about the musician who hears
and makes other people hear the unheard. That was the great tradition of the whole
planet."
Chapter 10 - Earle Brown: "I think all the hullabaloo is because it's so shocking in the
art world that an artist does not choose to control the details, shape, and poetic aspects."
According to Brown, Cage did not do anything that allowed the performer any latitude.
His lack of instruction did not give the performers enough confidence for the piece.
Performers took this advantage of interpreting; Cage was upset.
Chapter 11 - Kurt Schwersik: "[John Cage as a liberator: it's not the music, it's the
attitude?] This is the main thing about him."
The manipulation of sound can stimulate the audience. According to Cage, a concept of
Buddhism - that sounds are also beings, which he did not want to restrain or force in any
way. He wanted people to realize that the sounds are beings in their environment and to
get an affinity for understanding them. Recalling the previous interview, this was Cage
had wanted.
Chapter 13 - John Rockwell: "I myself find most of his later work really boring. To sit
through the Etudes Borreales, for cello and piano, is really boring. One could develop a
meditative exerceise and get into them that way but one could do the same for random
noise in a room."
"You have exciting music if the poets, painters, and dancers like it."
Rockwell implied that Cage was locked down into a kind of specialist mind-set, which
made it impossible for other artists to like it. It was often misunderstood by the more
practitioners within the art and finds a readier audiences. (Another debate with regards to
music in Romantic Theory)

"Cage was speaking of a spiritual revolution in which the entire would, not just a
professional cadre of musicians, will rise in consciousness and then create an art that
will best respond to its new and higher needs and sensibilities."
It breaks not only the hierarchy of arts, but also the class consciousness.
Chapter 14 - Pauline Oliveros: "There was an element of misunderstanding, a lack of
respect, and some emotional immaturity among the players to act in that manner - a lack
of integrity for a performer to try to sabotage a person's work because of personal
opinion."
Performers should be devoted to the practice of interpreting a score and not dismissing it
because they don't understand it.
"John breaks down the barriers among composer, performer, and audience."

John Cage: "I imagine now a music in the future that would be quite ritualistic. By means
of technology, it would simply be a revelation of sound even where we don't expect that it
exists ... It is therefore making a sound, but we don't yet know what that sound is. Now, if
we could simply make it audible, I think it would be ritualistic."
"I may be wrong, but I think art's work is done. I could be right in terms of my own work,
with respect to it. I must be wrong certainly with regar to other people's work, with
respect to it, but as far as I'm concerned, in the 20th century art has done a very, very
good job. What job? To open people's eyes, to open people's ears."
Music is still debatable as ever.