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3 x (KOSTELANETZ + CAGE) Dick Higgins John Cage: Writer.Previously UncollectedPieces.Selected and Introduced by Richard Kostelanetz. New York: Limelight Editions, 1993. Conversingwith Cage. Richard Kostelanetz, Author and Editor. New York: Limelight Editions, 1988. WritingsAboutJohn Cage.Edited by Richard Kostelanetz. Ann Arbor: University ofMichigan Press, 1993. o say that the composer John Cage (1912-1992) has had an influence which extended beyond his career as composer is a commonplace . In fact, sometimes it seems as if more attention is paid to him as a thinker embodying the spirit ofthe new than to his musical achievements, and, of course, this is a pity. The music embodies the ideas and shows that these ideas are not simply a web of fascinating speculations but that they can, in fact, be used to produce first rate music. One need only think of the Constructions in Metal, the String Quartet in FourMovements, the SonatasandInterludes , A Dream, The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs, Winter Music, HPSCHD and Roaratorio to demonstrate this (I have not yet decided which of his last works are strongest of their various genres). In addition to his music he has left us outstanding graphics (especially the dry point etchings), "paintings" made with fire and a large amount of poetry, this quite apart from the theoretical writings and essays and "lectures," some ofthe last ofwhich are also poems in the "pragmatic lineage," that is, intended to teach. Cage had, it could be argued, two philosophies, an overt and a covert one. The first and better known ofthese is a Western parallel to Zen as he understood it from working with Daisetz T. Suzuki in the 19 40s, stressing tranquillity and a general affinity to the principles of Chaos and of No Mind as exemplified by Huang Po and Wei Lang. The other of them is not so much opposed to the Zen element as a necessary concomitant of Cage's version of Zen, since he was for no long period a practicing Buddhist and his purposes were different from those ofan adept in search of enlightenment. Cage seems more like a witness than a Zen roshi, potential or otherwise. He teaches us nothing but he joins with us in discovering . This other, more hidden philosophy , is a highly original form of hermeneutic which is inchoate in his writings though, I think, inherent in his E 59 music, which stresses the hermeneutic circle as a process and which focuses especially on the act of making a work of art, musical or otherwise, by reception and perception rather than by any sort of creation or expression. That is, one examines the essentials of sound or situation or words or visual media and one sees in it the work which wishes to be born. One then becomes a midwife to it with a minimum of interference from one's own taste or experience. Of course different people are bound to receive different bodies of given material and to perceive different possibilities in them, but inasmuch as they do not get in their own way by picking and choosing on the basis of what they already know, to that extent they are participating in the Cagean process. If one takes the Zen part of this pair or two-sided philosophy alone, then it is sometimes hard to see how the music or other art work really is, that is, how does it exist? What is its such-ness (tathagata). If one adds to it the hermeneutic process, then the patternings emerge and the work and its philosophical underpinnings seem to speak with one voice. Cage was a charming man, inspiring confidence among those whom he met even when they did not understand his views or his work. He was forever being invited to lecture or to write for little magazines and presses as well as for more official ones. The full Cage bibliography will undoubtedly take many years to define. However, by the 1960s Cage's writings had begun to be collected together in a series of books, especially the five published by Wesleyan University Press: Silence (1961), which stresses the Zen side of things, A Year 60 E PERFORMING ARTS JOURNAL 48 from Monday (1967), which...


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