A high noise turned out to be the sound of his nervous system, and a low noise was the sound of his circulatory system. Thus, there are always sounds to hear as long as one can listen. Upon realizing that silence is not absolute, silence in music became for Cage a means by which sounds not intended, sounds from the environment, could enter music. Silence is not a void, but a limitless potential in which anything can happen. Anything can happen because nothing, no specific thing, is intended to take place for the duration of the silence:. Martin interview. Silence, therefore, is a duration from which Cage removes his own intentions—intentions that would place unwanted limits on the realization of potential sounds within a given moment.
Sounds that occur within this duration become the music. His use of the Chinese oracle book the I Ching in composition begins with the basic premise that there is an order in the universe, and that the order may be discerned through art if one is willing to give up the desire to control the creative process. In order to minimize the control and self-expression that would go into a work, Cage turned to the use of chance operations. Although his use of the I Ching is often referred to as a chance operation, according to the basic premise of the I Ching , there is no chance as we normally think of it.
The basis of the I Ching is an assumption that there is order in the universe, and one discerns the order by removing his or her own intentions, i. The coins fall in accord with the current order prevailing in nature. Change is an essential element in understanding the worldview presented in the I Ching. In ancient times the occurrences in life were placed in a context of a universe seen as continually changing, changing naturally, and changing in accordance with basic orderly patterns. The I Ching is consulted by either the counting of randomly divided groups of yarrow sticks or the tossing of coins.
Consulting by means that avoid personal intentions eliminates the possibility of manipulating the answer in any way. The coins or sticks are then free to follow the pattern of change in operation at the moment of the consultation without interference from conscious influence. He thus purposefully used the I Ching to attain purposelessness. By not having a goal when one begins a work of art, then the work itself can be perceived as purposeless because it is not the result of a predetermined end. Nevertheless, the creative process has a purpose, the purpose of avoiding intentions or goals. Each chart represented a basic music parameter.
He used one chart for superpositions how many events are to happen simultaneously during a given time , one for tempi, and eight charts apiece for durations, sounds, and dynamics respectively. Certain charts were designated mobile and others immobile with the elements on the mobile charts available for repeated use. The first toss at the beginning of each major unit of the piece determined which charts were to be mobile and which immobile.
An odd number designated change and an even number a continuation of the present state. Half of the sounds thirty-two on the eight sound charts were silences. The charts also determined if the sounds were to be heard singly or in combinations with other sounds. The charts included various types of sound including noises. Only sixteen of the possible sixty-four numbers created a change, otherwise, the present dynamics of the piece were maintained.
The duration charts contained note stems awaiting the appearance of a sound. When read in accord with the designated sound and tempo for the moment, the stem corresponded with the sound and gave the indication of the duration for the sound.
The tempi chart contained thirty-two elements for changing tempos and thirty-two blanks for retaining the tempo already in use Cage, Silence 57— Through the use of the above charts, the numbers of the sixty-four hexagrams determined by coin tossing were used to work each of the aspects of the piece throughout the entire work, determining when and in what manner an event was to occur. The result was a piece composed by hundreds of coin tosses and a great deal of labor in devising charts and systems for their operation.
Of course, choice was not eliminated completely. Cage did choose the elements for the charts and chose which numbers indicated change and which did not, but he certainly minimized the exercise of choice and control in relation to traditional methods of composing. Cage used combinations of chance methods and indeterminacy where the performers are only given bare outlines of how the piece is to be played in the desire to remove his own intentions from the work.
For Cage, chance music creates an increased involvement in life for the composer and the listener and allows life to reveal itself. Interview with John Cage 29 July [ii]. It becomes the experience of that person rather than something I know anything about.
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What has happened? Has the book changed or have you changed? So was Zen in the book? And in one of the stories in Silence , I think it was about—what was it? I was thinking it was poor music, whereas he was somehow just plain inhabited by Zen.
The most miserable experience turned into it; there was alchemy going on there. Many pages, in fact. He says about chance art:. And what could be less effortful than to shuffle the pages or the transparencies, or cast the dice? Beardsley He expects the artist to be responsible to make a choice and to make a statement. But you have formulated the questions. When I was a student of Schoenberg, he sent the whole class—there was a class of about thirty—he sent us all to the blackboard and he gave us a problem in counterpoint which we were to solve, and when we had it solved, we were to turn around so he could see what we had written and okay it or not.
Now find another. I always had the impression that because I had no feeling for harmony, he had lost any interest in my work. But about fifteen years after I left him, I learned that he remembered me. But I now feel that, were he still alive, I would be able to persuade him that I have not been unfaithful to his teachings, and that the questions weask are in fact the principles underlying all of the answers or solutions.
Doyou follow that or not?
Now , does the opinion that you have about the question…. Do you see similarities?
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Suzuki was never very clear about whether one should connect the I Ching with Zen or not. He said that Zen was the result of translating the Indian texts into the Chinese language so that there is a mixture of Indian thought with the necessities of Chinese language, together with Lao Tze [Lao Tzu] and Kwang Tze [Confucius], and he would now and then mention the I Ching , but he never spoke much about it.
Nevertheless, the I Ching is the oldest book in China. If, however, you ask the wrong question, which is also a possibility, then of course you should ask again. You should find the right question to ask. I was talking along these lines at Potsdam, a school that specializes in music, and this question finally came up, and I said you have to see the possibility of changing the responsibility to make choices to the responsibility to ask questions. Often people put words in your mouth when they ask questions by telling you what they want you to say.
I feel odd sitting here and asking questions now. Do you know why he said that? He also had very little feeling for any of the arts. He had a great feeling for cooking—he was a grand cook—and of course he had a gift for speaking to people and for writing books. He had recourse always when the question of music came up to citing Beethoven as an example or Mozart, as almost anyone even now, who knows nothing about music, continues to do.
Cage : All such things as returning with certainty to the point from which you started out. He was quite amazed at that, and for awhile he stopped citing Beethoven, as an argument in favor of Zen. So that when he heard the music, he was hearing the text.
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