Monday, 5 September 2016

John Cage ( 5/9/1912 – 12/8/1992) - Anarchist Poem


John Cage would have been 104 today. He died in 1992, but his influence continues to echo. Whenever John Cage performed, he insisted that the auditorium have accessible exits: A spectator who didn't want to stay, he said, should be able to leave easily. Cage—most famous for his 1952 composition 4'33", in which musicians sit in perfect silence for four minutes and 33 seconds—was a gut anarchist.

John Cage - 4'33 performed by David Tudor

 His  music relied on mathematical patterns, randomness, improvisation and chance to create unique sounds and rhythms. He could be said to be one of the developers of modern dance. Cage's pieces are controversial because they are vastly different from mainstream music. All of his compositions were difficult to reproduce and perform, which was an embodiment of his anarchist views. He believed that difficulty would ensure that "a performance would show that the impossible is not impossible" -this being Cage's answer to the notion that solving the world's political and social problems is impossible. Cage considered himself to be an anarchist, and was inspired by the work of Henry David Thoreau. In an interview in 1985 John Cage said, "I'm an anarchist. I don't know whether the adjective is pure and simple, or philosophical, or what, but I don't like government! And I don't like institutions! And I don't have any confidence in even good institutions."
Some have said his philosophy was more important than his music. He became a Zen Buddhist which impacted enormously on his music. According to Cage music was " purposeful play" however " this play is an affirmation of life - not an attempt to bring order out of chaos , nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we are living, which is so excellent once one gets one's mind and desires out of the way and lets it act upon its own accord"
Such an approach that set him so apart from other composers. For him it was the Eastern virtues of " Simplicity , disorder and chance." that he built his ideas and music upon. I will end with this rather nice poem from his visionary hand.

Anarchist Poem

We don't need government
We need utilities. 

Air, water, energy
Travel and communication means
Food and shelter. 

We have no need for imaginary mountain ranges
Between separate nations. 

We can make tunnels through the real ones. 

Nor do we have any need for the continuing division of people
Into those who have what they need
And those who don't. 

Both Fuller and Marshal McLuhan
Knew, furthermore
That work is now obsolete. 

We have invented machines to do it for us.

Now that we have no need to do anything
What shall we do?

Looking at Fuller's geodesic world map
We see that the Earth is a single island, Oahu.
We must give all the people all they need to live
In any way they wish. 

Our present laws protect the rich from the poor.
If there are to be laws, we need ones that
Begin with the acceptance of poverty as a way of life.

We must make the world safe for poverty Without dependence on government." 

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