For me, there is a more personal history of the Radio Happenings: the story of how they came to light and were preserved. It all happened because of procrastination and the pre-Internet digital social world of Bulletin Board Services in New York City. It was a rare musicological adventure.
Essays and posts on the music of American composer John Cage (1912-1992)
The history of how the Cage/Feldman “Radio Happenings” came to be recorded at WBAI, under the direction of Ann McMillan
Introducing a series of posts telling the missing story of the Cage/Feldman “Radio Happenings” of 1966-67, a series of broadcasts that has been getting more and more attention on the web.
Morton’s Feldman’s graph music—a music that was silent about which pitches should be played—changed Cage’s work forever. Cage expressed his understanding of Feldman’s radical act in a new lecture, the “Lecture on something”.
Morton Feldman’s “Projection” showed John Cage the destination of his musical-spiritual journey. It was a revelation, the opening of a door to an entirely new world, “not just the musical world outside of you”, as he later described it, “but the musical world inside of you.”
By 1950 Cage had arrived at a style that celebrated emptiness. Paradoxically, by letting go any strong self-expression, he discovered a truer musical voice. His next major work, the Concerto for prepared piano and chamber orchestra, was to explicitly present this release from self-expression.
Energized by the discoveries of the quartet, Cage created his first really great piece of writing in 1950, the “Lecture on nothing”. It eloquently presents Cage’s belief that self-negating discipline produces insight.
Through the composition of his “String quartet in four parts”, Cage went further on the path of “self-knowledge through self-denial”. In it, he discovered a non-expressive use of harmony, and he did it by treating materials in a systematic fashion.
In his writings “Defense of Satie” and “Forerunners of modern music”, Cage attempted to build a framework for music that could integrate what he needed in his life from both traditional and avant-garde music. In the process his work and thought began moving in the direction of “self-knowledge through self-denial”.