Friday, October 3, 2008

Cage on Recordings

What Cage says about not caring for records really doesn't surprise me. It seems that he saw -or is it heard?- music or sound or noise as a natural phenomenon, an occurrence, if you will. It goes hand in hand with the Zen stuff. You have to be in the moment and experience the sound as it happens. Accordingly, if you aren't there when it happens, well too bad for you. The record serves as a sort of cheap replacement for those unlucky people not there to witness a sound being heard. It's just not the same;kind of like going to see your daughter's ballet recital and watching it on video tape because you missed it. There's a big difference in the experience. I remember my mom used to tape my ballet recitals and, well, I loved to watch them afterward because I never got to see myself during the performance, but no one else ever cared to go back and watch the tapes. After the performance, who wants to see a recording?
This attitude toward recordings reminds me of what Cage said about contemporary or modern music. It's only contemporary as it's happening and after that, it's not new anymore. If it's already happened, it's in the past, and if you missed it, again, too bad for you. Does this mean that you can never have a recording of truly contemporary music? I guess it's like having a recording of improvisation; it's like having it second hand. And it really takes the novelty out of improvisation. Think about it, if you listen to that CD of improvisation say, five times, you could know it by heart. Kind of defeats the purpose of improvisation, doesn't it? I wonder if Cage would have agreed that a low-fi world -that is a world in which sounds are detached from their sources- isn't the most desirable thing. I would appear that one gets more out of a listening experience if one is witness to the cause and effect that produces the sounds heard. You see the drummer raise the drumstick, you see it come down, and you see it hit the drum (or perhaps in Cage's world, the coffee can or grand piano, or trampoline or whatever) at the same time hearing the vibrations produced. The experience has been allowed to run its natural course and you have had -in the words of John Dewy- "an experience." You miss out on that with a recorded sound.

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