Marshall McLuhan & John Cage

05Aug12

 John Cage (1988)

 John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer, music theorist, writer, and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in musicelectroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage’s romantic partner for most of their lives. (from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Cage ).

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Quotes from Kenneth Silverman’s biography of John Cage Begin Again, published by Random House (2010):-
“In McLuhan’s media studies, Cage discovered a framework to reshape some of his long-held philosophical views and give them a contemporary thrust. McLuhan argued, for instance, that the new electronic age creates an environment in which all kinds of diverse information simultaneously interact: “nowadays everything happens at once,” he said, “not just one thing at a time.” To Cage, the idea placed in a current context his Zen belief that all things are at the center of the universe, interpenetrating but not obstructing each other. “[T]he Huang-Po Doctrine is quite literally applicable to an ethics of the Global Village!” he exclaimed; “I feel closer to Chuang-tze today than ever before!” McLuhan also told him that in a book he and a painter friend had been working on, to be called “Space in Poetry and Painting,” what they call Space corresponded to what Cage called Silence. Enthusiastic about McLuhan, Cage wrote an article about his influence for the Toronto Star. The Toronto Globe and Mail headlined one of its own articles “John Cage: Musical McLuhan.””
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“Cage’s active interest revived in 1965 when Marshall McLuhan, a dedicated Joycean, suggested he write a piece using the ten thunderclaps from Finnegans Wake, which McLuhan viewed as capsule histories of cultural change. (“bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuon
nthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!”) McLuhan’s son Eric was writing a book interpreting the thunderclaps, and advised Cage on their meaning. Cage considered composing new star-map music, in which microphones attached to the throats of the chorus members would make their singing of Joyce’s verbal thunderclaps sound like actual thunder, the strings playing pizzicati that would sound like rain. He seems to have started on the project, formulating a talk on “Disappearance of syntax/Joyce,” but very soon put it on hold. He returned to Joyce a few years later, choosing as a text for Solo 84 of Song Books the last sixty-four lines of Finnegans Wake. Yet the work remained, he said later, “one of the books which I’ve always loved and never read.””
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However effective, Cage’s political activity also wearied and concerned him. “I’ve had to talk so much,” he said, “that I’ve grown to ressemble [sic] a car without tires, rumbling along.” Moving from interview to interview and college to college, like “a minister traveling from one town to another preaching the gospel,” he at times felt himself to be living in the earlier print world of Gutenbergian repetition. “Nevertheless,” he added, “the fact that I move around is related to McLuhan’s description of the world as just one village.” Much as he might prefer staying at home in Stony Point to compose, he decided, “I begin to realize that my home is all around the world.”” — Kenneth Silverman, Begin Again
More quotes from Silverman’s biography at http://tinyurl.com/d8tnmf3 .
The following quote by John Cage is taken from Barrington Nevitt & Maurice McLuhan’s Who Was Marshall McLuhan? Exploring a Mosaic of Impressions. Toronto: Stoddart:
“I remember being with [Marshall McLuhan] at lunch, not what we ate. He asked me questions (he wanted to know what patterns in society I heeded). I couldn’t respond; my mind doesn’t work that way. For me his books, his questions, his statements were all mysterious and therefore useful. They still are. They keep understanding at a safe distance. He continues to protect us from from what we see is happening.” (p. 269)
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2 Responses to “Marshall McLuhan & John Cage”


  1. 1 La música de Jhon Cage: Marshall McLuhan como inspiración « Revista Beat
  2. 2 La música de Jhon Cage: Marshall McLuhan como inspiración | Vanessa Vargas

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