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The title of Ms. Cage wanted to capture the void in his music.

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He loved maxims, anecdotes, lessons and manifestoes. You encounter a lot of them here, and they are not breezed over: Ms. Tell us what you think.


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Please re-enter. You must select a newsletter to subscribe to. Sign Up. Daisetz T. The lessons he absorbed — particularly one on the ego and the outside world, reconstructed and well narrated by Ms. But she is also a practicing Buddhist, and she presents Cage almost as a figure in a parable.

Book Review: Where the Heart Beats; John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists

The book is meticulous about dates, encounters and critical receptions. Still, there is no mistaking this for a straightforward biography. Much of Ms. View all New York Times newsletters. After an early interest in counterpoint and tone rows Cage became less interested in a fixed outcome for his music, instead creating structures in which he radically yielded control. The title of Ms. Cage wanted to capture the void in his music. He loved maxims, anecdotes, lessons and manifestoes. You encounter a lot of them here, and they are not breezed over: Ms.

Thus, in Zen-influenced music, one might expect to find an aesthetic situation similar to that in the other Zen arts: the essence of the sounds of nature suggested by the least possible means. Or, in further abstracted form: the essence of sound itself suggested by the least possible means. Both have a part in Zen music. It is first necessary to determine, then, the nature of sound as the Japanese heard it. Sound exists in opposition to silence, and music must reflect this basic fact. Sounds take their being from silence and return to it.

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The inner nature of sound seems to be connected in some mysterious fashion to its transitory character. There is also in sound a sense of continual change, a "becoming," an inexorable leading from tone to tone and finally back into silence. Western music aesthetics is based upon the concept of a discrete tone as a building block of larger forms, which are in turn combined at various architectonic levels to create a movement or complete piece for instance, the notes C,E,G may sound simultaneously as a chord, or sequentially as part of a melodic phrase; the chord or phrase may be combined with other chords or phrases to produce harmonic or melodic sections, which are in turn combined to produce sub divisions of movements, et cetera.

However, Zen music refuses to establish fixed pitch levels as building blocks, rather connects sounds together which are continually becoming one another, coalescing. From these sounds, longer melody lines are developed, but there is never a sense of architectonic structure, always free movement from idea to idea. In no music, which is primarily composed of utai or singing and hayashi or orchestra, the rhythmic element is the underlying key. And the rhythm of no music is constructed in a fashion similar to that just discussed in connection with pitch level organization.

Rather than a series of rhythmic building blocks on a fixed time constant as in Western music, no music utilizes a continually varying time structure, which effectively suggests varying degrees of kinetic tension. Each sound has its own rhythmic point in space time, and is not thought of as part of a pattern based on fixed clock time; it is itself and not related to any imaginary superimposed pattern.

Another genre, the music of the shakuhachi fits this aesthetic perfectly. It is primarily a melodic instrument an open, vertical flute and is extremely difficult to play; the performer gently coaxes the tones out of the instrument, producing an incredible variety of timbre and pitch gradation.

Alan Watts: The Discipline of Zen (1960) [full length]

The Chinese predecessor of this instrument hsiao was considerably easier to play and could manage discrete tones without any trouble. The influence of Zen on the nature of this instrument began when it came to Japan. Zen and Contemporary Western Art.

2 Concerts Accent John Cage Factor In Japanese Music | Classical Voice North America

Artists and philosophers have long been faced with the problem of what is expressed in a work of art or, put in another way, what is created in a work of art. At the beginning of this century many Western artists found traditional answers to this problem unsatisfactory, being disturbed by the difficulty in pinpointing meaning as felt by different audiences. The same work of art, they found, was likely to instill quite different feelings in any two audiences, both of which may be opposite to the artist's intention; the question then arises: who is right?

The plethora of aesthetic theories resulting from this soul searching resulted in general agreement on the side of formalism as opposed to referentialism. In music, formalism means that the music is thought of as not expressing or meaning anything outside of itself except through specific learned habit responses ; music cannot refer to a specific external happening or emotion; however there remains disagreement as to the exact nature of this internalized musical expression.

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Stravinsky holds that music cannot express anything but music: we follow the evolution of a musical idea with purely intellectual interest Stravinsky Leonard Meyer posits a semiconscious level of emotional affect caused by basic psychological responses to musical sound terms Meyer The differences between Meyer and Stravinsky are not so great, however, as those between the formalists in general and the recent group of musicians under the intellectual leadership of John Cage.

Cage says:. Likewise the music consists of single sounds or groups of sounds which are not supported by harmonies but resound within a space of silence From this independence of music and dance a rhythm results which is not that of horses' hooves or other regular beats but which reminds us of a multiplicity of events in time and space--stars, for instance, in the sky, or activities on earth viewed from the air.

We are not, in these dances and music, saying something. We are simpleminded enough to think that if we were saying something we would use words. We are rather doing something.


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  8. The meaning of what we do is determined by each one who sees and hears it. At a recent performance. Enjoy yourself! I may add there are no stories and no psychological problems. There is simply an activity of movement, sound, and light Cage 94 I have quoted Cage at length, because of his nearness to Zen aesthetics, and the clarity with which it is expressed.

    Cage's conception of music differs from that of the formalists in that he does not feel the need for any musical idea as such. The sounds themselves are to be listened to aesthetically. The difference between noise and music is in the approach of the audience.

    Roughly stated, noise is heard, music is listened to; this is not a general definition, but the subjectivism should be clear. This reads as if a quote from a Zen Master: "in the last resort nothing gained.

    2 Concerts Accent John Cage Factor In Japanese Music

    Thus we see that Cage has consciously applied principles of Zen to solve his personal aesthetic problem. He does not try to superimpose his will in the form of structure or predetermination in any form. Cage has, in fact, created a method of composition from Zen aesthetics. It was originally a synthetic method, deriving inspiration from elements of Zen art: the swift brush strokes of Sesshu and the sumi-e painters which leave happenstance ink blots and stray scratches in their wake, the unpredictable glaze patterns of the cha no yu potters, the eternal quality of the rock gardens, the great open spaces in the paintings of Wang Wei and Mu Ch'i.

    Then, isolating the element of chance as vital to artistic creation which is to remain in harmony with the universe, he selected the oracular I Ching Classic of Changes, an ancient Chinese book as a means of providing random information which he translated into musical notations. Later, he moved away from the I Ching to more abstract methods of indeterminate composition: scores based on star maps, and scores entirely silent, or with long spaces of silence, in which the only sounds are supplied by nature or by the uncomfortable audience.

    Many young composers and painters have followed in Cage's footsteps, and the school of chance art found the necessity of setting up categories to properly delimit the various types of chance composition. These categories are at present three in number and are described as follows. This category includes pieces created through the use of some random system which effectively isolates the composer's will from the final manuscript.

    The piece, as notated by the composer is then performed, as accurately as possible, by the. This category includes pieces which make use of improvisation, and has taken much from Jazz.