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Articles


Glasswanderers

by Julia Dür



3. Silent biographyá
                                                                      Introduction to John Cageá

 

I thought that the best introduction to John Cage would be an 'incomplete' or 'imperfect' mestostic. 'Incomplete' as I would like to leave enough space for thoughts. Cage described his mesostic technique as follows:

  "Like acrostics, mesostics are written in the conventional way horizontally, but at the same time they follow a vertical rule, down the middle not down the edge as in an acrostic, a string spells a word or name, not necessarily connected with what is being written, though it may be. This vertical rule is lettristic and in my practice the letters are capitalized. Between two capitals in a perfect or 100% mesosticá neither letter may appear in the lower case. In the writing of the wing words, the horizontal text, the letters of the vertical string help me out of sentimentality. I have something to do, a puzzle to solve. This way of responding makes me feel in this respect one with the Japanese people, who formerly, I once learned, turned their letter writing into the writing of poems (...)"(1)

My mesostics follow a vertical line while the horizontal words consist of different quotations by Cage. Quotations which, in the case of Cage, contain a stronger message than an encyclopaedic biography. Respecting Cage's ideas such as experience, silence and non-teaching, I would like to leave the reader with the following mesostic. In order to make it easier to identify Cage'sá thoughts, I used different type faces. To my astonishment, I found out later that Cage, as a consequence of dealing more and more with the media, also used various font types in various chapters of his book A Year from Monday.á In the first chapter, Diary: How to improve the world (you will only make matters worse) 1965, Cage made use of twelve different type faces, letting chance operations determine which face would be used for which statement.

DiSharmony
   
 
As far as COnsistency Of
 
 
I aM here and
 
 
ThERe is
 
 
iS
 
 
NothING To say
 
 
L
 
 
E
SPACE FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
 
N
 
 
Thought
 
 
 
 
B
 
 
sImply
 
 
GOes I
 
 
G
 
 
HaRmony we
 
 
Are
 
 
Prefer
 
 
everytHing is permitted
 
 
InconsIstency
 
 
UnacCustomed to
 
 
zero is the bAsis
 
 
L
 
 
 
 
T
 
 
H
 
Empty
O
Canvas
 
U
 
 
G
 
 
H
 
 
T
 
WE NEED NOT FEAR THESE SILENCES  


Cage, John Milton, Jr. (1912-92)
, American composer, who had a profound influence on avant-garde music and dance. Born September 5, 1912, in Los Angeles, he studied with the American composers Henry Cowell and Adolph Weiss and the Austrian-born composer Arnold Schoenberg. In 1942 he settled in New York City. Influenced by Zen Buddhism, Cage often used silence as a musical element, with sounds as entities hanging in time, and he sought to achieve randomness in his music. In Music of Changes (1951), for piano, tone combinations occur in a sequence determined by casting lots. In 4'33" (1952), the performers sit silently at instruments; the unconnected sounds of the environment are the music. Like Theatre Piece (1960), in which musicians, dancers, and mimes perform randomly selected tasks, 4'33" dissolves the borders separating music, sound, and nonmusical phenomena. In Cage's pieces for prepared piano, such as Amores (1943), foreign objects modify the sounds of the piano strings. Cage wrote dance works for the American choreographer Merce Cunningham. His books include Silence (1961), Empty Words (1979), and X (1983).(2)


To refer back to CÚzanne's quotation at the beginning of this chapter--Duchamp proposes the work of art as an independent creation, brought into being a joint effort by the artist, the spectator, and the unpredictable actions of chance--a freer creation that its very nature, may be more complex, more interesting, more original, and truer to life than a work that is subject to the limitations of the artist's personal control. >>Next

 

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Notes

1. John Cage, Quotations found in the Web: http://www.english.upenn.edu/??afilreis/88/cage-quotes.html

2. "Cage, John Milton, Jr.," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.