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.”
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.
This series of posts traces the musical-spiritual path that John Cage followed in the 1940s and early 1950s.
Introduction to a series of posts on John Cage’s musical and spiritual path of the 1940s and early 1950s. To understand his taking up of chance in 1951, you have to understand this journey, and to fully understand the journey, you must be able to see it as a journey into both musical silence and inner silence.
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.
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.
I’ve said that I’m more a storyteller than a musicologist. I was reminded of this while reading Kay Larson’s new book “Where the heart beats”. Our tellings of the story of Cage’s spiritual journey aren’t that far apart.
I’ve been reading “On an overgrown path” on how spirituality could be a huge marketing opportunity for classical music. Classical music, the author proposes, should drawn on its deep spiritual heritage and sell itself as the “kind of unique life enriching experience” that it actually can be. Part of what makes me mention this here is that the author quotes John Cage’s formulation of the purpose of music: To sober and quiet the mind making it susceptible to divine influences.