Friday, September 12, 2008

It was so weird watching Cage's waterwalk piece on a clip from a popular game show from the 60's. Like Dr. Langguth said in class, public television has changed quite a bit from the 60's. It was startling to see the cigarette advertisement on the show, as well as an artist as experimental as Cage. I really liked how Cage absolutely doesn't care if people laugh at his work. More than simply not caring if other people laugh, I think Cage doesn't even take himself as seriously as some people do. He did not perform waterwalk somberly, as he could have done. He didn't smile either, but I think he gave off the vibe of a deadpan comedian more than anything else. He performed the piece, which I thought was more performance art than concert, with a whimsical and lighthearted air, flitting from each activity, each bringing a new sound into the piece. He doesn't crash the appliances with a rock star, angsty urge to destroy. He lithely flips them to the floor, much more like David Letterman throwing things off the top of his building than like the Who.

This whimsical version of Cage I think is what makes him so easy to like. I cannot summon the kind of contempt that I think Daniel, and many music critics have come to have for him, because he is so obviously lighthearted about everything. He would be so easy to hate if he was pretentious about his music, like the stereotypical modern art critic, condescending to everyone unable to see the deeper meaning in the painting of a large red dot. He is totally OK with his works making his audience laugh, like he points out when he says he prefers laughter to tears.
I kept having the impression, while I watched the waterwalk video, that I was watching some comedian do a parody of Cage's works. Cage's pieces may sound pretentious, but I think he himself is anything but.

So if I enjoy watching Cage's works because they make me laugh at how silly he looks when he flips appliances off the table, keeps going back to the hissing kettle, and appears to stop to take a drink, does that mean that his work is music? I have to say that in this particular piece, I did not, at first pay attention to the sounds he was making really at all. I was too preocuppied with watching him. But once I forced myself to listen, O yeah, this is supposed to be a song, I found that the sounds were much darker than the laughter of the crowd, as well as my own, had led me to believe. The hissing and the crashing and the gurgling would not have sounded funny at all. But I don't think it would have really sounded like anything much.

I think, overall, waterworks the performance was art--I would say a comedy. But the music itself, without the visual performance, I can hardly label "art".

1 comment:

Emmy said...

I agree completely with you JJ. I thought it was really interesting hearing that he did not care if the audience laughed and that he preferred that to tears which definately describes what type of person he is. He tries to find the good in everything and find joy and fun in every aspect of life, even if that means others will laugh at him.
He seemed so carefree during his performance. He seemed kind of like a little kid playing with all of the water and things in the performance. He was lighthearted and appeared to be just doing what he thought would be good to do at the time not doing something because it is what he had to do to make it sound right.
He looked like a kid that just made some sort of new contraption that he thought was he coolest thing on the planet, and he wants to show his parents and his friends what he came up with. He wants to show everyone how neat the music is he has made.