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Lectures and Writings, 50th Anniversary Edition

John Cage

Publication Year: 2011

Silence, John Cage's first book and epic masterpiece, was published in October 1961. In these lectures, scores, and writings, Cage tries, as he says, to find a way of writing that comes from ideas, is not about them, but that produces them. Often these writings include mesostics and essays created by subjecting the work of other writers to chance procedures using the I Ching. Fifty years later comes a beautiful new edition with a foreword by eminent music critic Kyle Gann. A landmark book in American arts and culture, Silence has been translated into more than forty languages and has sold over half a million copies worldwide. Wesleyan University Press is proud to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the book's publication with this special hardcover edition.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

For over twenty years I have been writing articles and giving lectures. Many of them have been unusual in form-this is especially true of the lectures- because I have employed in them means of composing analogous to my composing means in the field of music. My intention has been, often, to say what I had to say in a way that would exemplify it; that would, conceivably, permit the listener to experience what I had to say rather than...


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pp. xii-2

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The Future of Music: Credo

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pp. 3-6

Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them not as sound effects but as musical instruments. Every film studio has a...

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Experimental Music

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pp. 7-12

Formerly, whenever anyone said the music I presented was experimental, I objected. It seemed to me that composers knew what they were doing, and that the experiments that had been made had taken place prior to the finished works, just as sketches are made before paintings and rehearsals precede performances. But, giving the matter further thought, I realized...

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Experimental Music: Doctrine

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pp. 13-17

Objections are sometimes made by composers to the use of the term experimental as descriptive of their works, for it is claimed that ally experiments that are made precede the steps that are finally taken with determination, and that this determination is knowing, having, in fact, a particular, if unconventional, ordering of the elements used in view. These...

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Composition as Process

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pp. 18-56

This is a lecture on changes that have taken place in my composition means, with particular reference to what, a decade ago, I termed "structure" and "method." By "structure" was meant the...

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pp. 57-61

My recent work (Imaginary Landscape No. IV for twelve radios and the Music of Changes for piano) is structurally similar to my earlier work: based on a number of measures having a square root, so that the large lengths have the same relation within the whole that the small lengths have within a unit of it. Formerly, however, these lengths were time-lengths, whereas in the recent work the lengths exist only in space, the speed of...

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Forerunners of Modern Music

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pp. 62-66

Music is edifying, for from time to time it sets the soul in operation. The soul is the gatherer-together of the disparate elements (Meister Eckhart), and its work fills one with peace and love...

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History of Experimental Music in the United States

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pp. 67-75

Once when Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki was giving a talk at Columbia University he mentioned the name of a Chinese monk who had figured in the history of Chinese Buddhism. Suzuki said, "He lived in the ninth or the tenth century." He added, after a pause, "Or the eleventh century, or the twelfth or thirteenth century or the fourteenth."...

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Erik Satie

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pp. 76-82

A few days ago it rained. I should be out gathering mushrooms. But here I ?m, having to write about Satie. In an unguarded moment I said I would. Now I am pestered with a deadline. Why, in heaven's name, don't people read the books about...

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Edgard Varèse

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pp. 83-85

Changes which are characteristic of a living organism (and twentieth-century music is one) have become recently more marked and occur in more rapid succession. In the history Varese appears sometimes as a figure of the past; and, again, as one active according to present necessities...

Four Statements on the Dance

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Goal: New Music, New Dance

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pp. 87-88

Percussion music is revolution. Sound and rhythm have too long been submissive to the restrictions of nineteenth-century music. Today we are fIghting for their emancipation. Tomorrow, with electronic music in our ears, we will hear freedom...

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Grace and Clarity

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pp. 89-93

The strength that comes from firmly established art practices is not present in the modem dance today. Insecure, not having any clear direction, the modem dancer is willing to compromise and to accept influences from other more rooted art manners, enabling one to remark that certain dancers are either borrowing from or selling themselves to Broadway, others are...

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In This Day…

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pp. 94-95

In this day of TV-darkened homes, a live performance has become something of a rarity, so much so that Aaron Copland recently said a concert is a thing of the past. Nevertheless, I would like to say a few words regarding the new direction taken by our company of dancers and musicians...

2 Pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance

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pp. 96-97

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On Robert Rauschenberg, Artist, and His Work

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pp. 98-108

Conversation was difficult and correspondence virtually ceased. (Not because of the mails, which continued.) People spoke of messages, perhaps because they'd not heard from one another for a long time. Art flourished.
The goat. No weeds. Virtuosity with ease. Does his head have a bed in it? Beauty. His hands and his feet, fingers and toes long-jointed, are astonishing. They...

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Lecture on Nothing

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pp. 109-127

This lecture was printed in Incontri Musicali, August 1959. There are four measures in each line and twelve lines in each unit of the rhythmic structure. There are forty-eight such units, each having forty-eight measures. The whole is divided into five large parts, in the proportion 7, 6, 14, 14, 7. The forty-eight measures of each unit are likewise so divided. The text is...

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Lecture on Something

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pp. 128-145

To bring things up to date, let me say that I am as ever changing, while Feldman's music seems more to continue than to change. There never was and there is not now in my mind any doubt about its beauty. It is, in fact, sometimes too beautiful. The {!twor of that beauty, which formerly seemed to me to be heroic, strikes me now as erotic (an equal, by no means a lesser, flavor). This impression is due, I believe, to Feldman's tendency

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45' for a Speaker

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pp. 146-193

The piano parts had included noises and whistles in addition to piano and prepared piano tones. For the speaker, I made a list of noises and gestures. By means of chance operations, determining which noise or gesture and when it was to be made, I added these to the text.

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Where Are We Going? and What Are We Doing?

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pp. 194-259

I was driving out to the country once with Carolyn and Earle Brown. We got to talking about Coomaraswamy's statement that the traditional function of the artist is to imitate nature in her manner of operation. This led me to the opinion that art changes because science changes-that is, changes in science give artists different understandings of how nature works...

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pp. 260-273

The following spring, back in America, I delivered the talk again, at Teachers College, Columbia. For this occasion I wrote sixty more stories, and there was a musical accompaniment by David Tudor-material from the Concert for Piano and Orchestra, employing several radios as noise elements. Soon thereafter these ninety stories were brought out as a Folkways...

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Music Lovers' Field Companion

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pp. 274-276

I have come to the conclusion that much can be learned about music by devoting oneself to the mushroom. For this purpose I have recently moved to the country. Much of my time is spent poring over "field companions" on fungi. These I obtain at half price in second-hand bookshops, which latter are in some rare cases next door to shops selling dog-eared sheets of...

E-ISBN-13: 9780819571779
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819571762

Page Count: 312
Publication Year: 2011