In Which The Key Genius John Cage Passes On Some California Wisdom for Your Benefit


John Cage’s Indeterminacy was most often performed with David Tudor on the piano. Every minute Cage would read a story, no matter how long or short the story was. These anecdotes are collected on this CD and on the magnificent Indeterminacy website. You can pretty much see how large an influence Cage’s style of storytelling is on me. He avoids the aphorism even as these are all basically aphorisms, probably the best bunch of them ever written

from Indeterminacy by John Cage: 

One day down at Black Mountain College, David Tudor was eating his lunch. A student came over to his table and began asking him questions. David Tudor went on eating his lunch. The student kept on asking questions. Finally David Tudor looked at him and said, “If you don’t know, why do you ask?”

An Indian woman who lived in the islands was required to come to Juneau to testify in a trial. After she had solemnly sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, she was asked whether she had been subpoenaed. She said, “Yes. Once on the boat coming over, and once in the hotel here in Juneau.”

Standing in line, Max Jacob said, gives one the opportunity to practice patience.

A depressed young man came to see Hazel Dreis, the bookbinder. He said, “I’ve decided to commit suicide.” She said, “I think it’s a good idea. Why don’t you do it?”

On one occasion, Schoenberg asked a girl in his class to go to the piano and play the first movement of a Beethoven sonata, which was afterwards to be analyzed. She said, “It is too difficult. I can’t play it.” Schoenberg said, “You’re a pianist, aren’t you?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “Then go to the piano.” She did. She had no sooner begun playing than he stopped her to say that she was not playing at the proper tempo. She said that if she played at the proper tempo, she would make mistakes. He said, “Play at the proper tempo and do not make mistakes.” She began again, and he stopped her immediately to say that she was making mistakes. She then burst into tears and between sobs explained that she had gone to the dentist earlier that day and that she’d had a tooth pulled out. He said, “Do you have to have a tooth pulled out in order to make mistakes?”

There was a lady in Suzuki’s class who said once, “I have great difficulty readings the sermonds of Meister Eckhart, because of all the Christian imagery.” Dr. Suzuki said, “That difficulty will disappear.”

Sometime after my father’s death, I was talking with Mother. I suggested she take a trip West to visit the relatives. I said, “You’ll have a good time.” She was quick to reply. “Now, John, you know perfectly well that I’ve never enjoyed having a good time.”

Xenia told me once that when she was a chld in Alaska, she and her friends had a club and there was only one rule: No silliness.

On Christmas Day, Mother said, “I’ve listened to your record several times. After hearing all your stories about your childhood, I keep asking myself, ‘Where was it that I failed?'”

One spring morning I knocked on Sonya Sekula’s door. She lived across the hall. Presently the door was opened just a crack and she said quickly, “I know you’re very busy: I won’t take a minute of your time.”

One of Mies Van der Rohe’s pupils, a girl, came to him and said, “I have difficulty studying with you because you don’t leave any room for self-expression.” He asked her whether she had a pen with her. She did. He said, “Sign your name.” She did. He said, “That’s what I call self-expression.”

John Cage’s Norton lectures at UbuWeb

“Mureau” — John Cage

“Song Derived From the Journal of Henry David Thoreau” — John Cage

Here’s a few tough to find Spiritualized b-sides because I’m feeling generous.

“Going Down Slow” — Spiritualized

“Anything More (instrumental)” — Spiritualized

8 thoughts on “In Which The Key Genius John Cage Passes On Some California Wisdom for Your Benefit

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