John Cage, composing

“Silent prayer”, the first silent piece

In 1948, John Cage proposed writing “a piece of uninterrupted silence” to be called “Silent prayer”. While this has been connected as the precursor of 4′ 33″, there is a rather startling gap between John Cage in 1948 and John Cage in 1952. What was the context of Silent prayer, then?

What is your silent piece?

Each of us has an image of John Cage’s silent piece, an idea—or many ideas—of what he created, why he created it, and what it means. This series will be my story of Cage’s silent piece—or silent pieces, since there are four of them.

Triadic memory 4: Rhythms and structures

Triadic memories, like all late Feldman, is a series of repeated patterns, musical images that are extended in time by repetition. In some pieces these repetitions are of larger chunks of music, with a system, set of systems, or even pages of music reappearing, often with permutations. I’ve always thought of these larger-scale repetitions in terms of the whole pattern: pitch and rhythm together. Playing through Triadic memories, I’ve become aware of them rhythmically, repeating even as the pitches are moved around.

Triadic memory #3: A figure in memory

There is a figure that appears about a third of the way into Triadic memories. It catches my attention, wakes me up: it is a signal that something is changing. Where are we going now? And haven’t I heard this before somewhere?

How I happened upon the Happenings

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.