Thursday, May 13, 2010

Silence is no help

I've been flipping through Silence, John Cage's first book of lectures and essays. I thought maybe it could help me get my foot in the door of some of his less accessible music. It can't! His lectures are more obscure than his music.

The foreword uses paragraphs, sentences, and punctuation. That's nice. I can read that. In these sentences and paragraphs, Cage catalogs some of his most obscure moments. Self-indulgent, maybe, but it makes for some great stories. From the second paragraph of the foreword:
Lecture on Nothing was written in the same rhythmic structure I employed at the time in my musical compositions (Sonatas and Interludes, Three Dances, etc.). One of the structural divisions was the repetition, some fourteen times, of a single page in which occurred the refrain, "If anyone is sleepy let him go to sleep." Jeanne Reynal, I remember, stood up part way through, screamed, and then said, while I continued speaking, "John, I dearly love you, but I can't bear another minute." She then walked out. Later, during the question period, I gave one of six previously prepared answers regardless of the question asked. This was a reflection of my engagement in Zen.
I love the idea of prepared answers. Cage appends them to the end of Lecture on Nothing. Good stuff:
1. That is a very good question. I should not want to spoil it with an answer.
2. My head wants to ache.
3. Had you heard Marya Freund last April in Palemo singing Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, I doubt whether you would ask that question.
4. According to the Farmer's Almanac this is False Spring.
5. Please repeat the question...
And again...
And again...
6. I have no more answers.

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