Essay presenting six different perspectives on Cage’s well-known early masterpiece.
The introduction to James Pritchett’s book ‘The Music of John Cage’ explains why we must consider John Cage to be a composer above all else.
This essay was written for the catalog of the exhibition “John Cage and Experimental Art: The Anarchy of Silence” at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona. Copyright 2009 by James Pritchett. All rights reserved. Originally we had in mind what you might call an imaginary beauty, a process of basic emptiness with just a few […]
I’ve been reading Irving Sandler’s book on the Abstract Expressionist painters, The triumph of American painting. I picked this book up also because I wanted to study how someone writes about that art. I’ve gotten other things from my reading, too, and it makes me think about why we write about art and music, the relationship between artist, writer, and audience.
I recently listened to all five hours of the Cage/Feldman Radio happenings of 1966–67. Hearing them in conversation, I get a feel for a friendship and a collegiality that is more subtle than is usually described.
John Cage and the prepared piano: a twelve-year history in six parts by James Pritchett Copyright 2007 by James Pritchett. All rights reserved. Prologue (5 April 1944) “Dances by Merce Cunningham; Music by John Cage”, the concert program read. “April fifth, Nineteen forty-four, at nine o’clock.” The program, divided into three parts, consisted of: DANCE […]
All composers endure bad performances of their music. It’s always demoralizing and undermines self-confidence. Some solace can be taken in the knowledge that this experience is universal: it happens to all composers, the famous and the obscure, and at all points in their careers. This point was driven home to me recently when I discovered John Cage, in conversation with Morton Feldman, describing the impact of a bad performance of his Concerto for prepared piano.
Both Morton Feldman and John Cage at various times remembered fondly the long talks they had together during the 1950s, soon after they met. What did they talk about? One topic may have been a spiritual one: seeking something beyond their own sense of self in their work, something larger.
Hearing Webern and Feldman next to each other is a real ear-opener. The other day I decided to explore this a little further. I listened to the Webern Symphony again, then to two Feldman pieces from the time of that famous concert walk-out: Projection 1 for cello (1950) and Structures for string quartet (1951).
I’m playing Federico Mompou’s Musica callada (“Silent music”) these days. The music is beautiful and strange. I was attracted to this music by its title, which immediately put me in mind of Cage’s string quartet.