Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday, John Cage

America's most iconoclastic composer, John Cage, was born 100 years ago today.  Cage passed away in August, 1992, just over 10 years ago.

Among the Alaska artists most profoundly influenced by John Cage's music and intellectual ideas were sculptor, painter and sound artist, the late Ken Gray, and Alaska's most important composer working today, John Luther Adams.

Yesterday  evening, the Anchorage Civic Orchestra inadvertently did Cage homage, with a performance of 4'33"

Today, I'm going mushroom hunting in homage to Cage, who was a serious mycophile.

Cage's legacy is musical, meta-musical (a term Igor Stravinsky used to describe some of the works by Cage and German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen), and literary.  His series of books, beginning with Silence, were perhaps as influential as his music.

Here is a poem from Indeterminacy.  The indentations are from the original:

Two       monks       came       to       a       stream.
      was       Hindu,
         the       other       Zen.
                                     The       Indian
    began       to       cross       the       stream
                    by       walking
  on       the       surface                     of
   the       water.
                     The       Japanese       became
     excited                     and       called
 to       him                      to       come
      “What’s       the       matter,”
      the       Indian                      said.
      Zen       monk       said,
                    “That’s       not       the       way
      to       cross       the       stream.
      me.”                       He       led       him
       to        a        place        where        the
       water        was        shallow
        and        they         waded         across.

 Here is an orchestral performance of 4'33" Here is Cage, in 1960, in an appearance with Gary Moore as host, on the TV program, I've Got a Secret: Here is Steve Butters, performing Cage's Suite for Toy Piano:

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