Saturday, October 3, 2009

Cage at the Movies

Having become acquainted with John Cage's philosophies, his views on music and of the world, and having gotten a sense of his personality, I somehow feel as though I've been privy to a small glimpse inside of his head. To study his philosophies brings one so close to something that seems so intimate, and though I will never meet him, I have a sense that I've gotten to know Cage personally -sort of. Anyway, seeing as, in reality, I didn't know Cage, I can only wonder about some things. And I do. Quite a bit. Feel free to call me a weirdo if you'd like, but I find myself asking "What would Cage do?" or "What would Cage have liked?"

Don't tell me I'm the only one who ponders these kinds of things. Didn't we all wonder what kind of doughnut Cage would have most appreciated on the last day of class? (Doughnut holes, wasn't it?) Well, I find myself doing that all the time. What was Cage's favorite sandwich? What would Cage think of reality TV? I don't believe he ever wrote about such topics, even in his tangents during his talks, so I can only wonder.

Most recently, I found myself wondering what kind of movies John Cage might have liked. Judging by his reaction to the Hallelujah chorus ("I don't mind being moved, but I don't like being pushed!") I doubt he would have enjoyed the big money Hollywood blockbusters. Hitchcock is definitely out -too much manipulation of the audience, too much orchestration. No, Cage seems to me like a guy who would like a film that emulates what life is truly like. Perhaps one with no plot at all. Like Napoleon Dynamite, maybe, but even that seems too much. He'd be interested in all aspects of the film, like camera angle, musical score (or lack thereof, which I believe he might have preferred), lighting... I'm thinking low budget, independent film. Or maybe he would like something more along the lines of the bizarre, like Huis Clos by Jean-Paul Sartre-but then again, there's an existential message behind that one. No, nothing that tries to communicate a meaning or moral. Gosh, this is tougher than I thought...

Okay, I've got it. Cage would probably most enjoy watching a movie made by just setting a camera up at a bird feeder or in a fish tank, an maybe moving it around at random, periodically. Yes that seems right. No meaning, no orchestration, no agenda. Just birds or fish living out their days, the only way they know how. And best of all, complete indeterminacy. Yep, I think I've got it right this time.... then again, maybe he was a fan of Star Wars...


leinaDxbx said...

If you were to recommend a John Cage album for someone who hasn't listened to him, which one would it be?

penny said...

An album... hmmm, well that's kind of a difficult question to answer, because Cage didn't have a lot of his music recorded. Since he was operating using chance and indeterminacy, he believed that once it was recorded, it was no longer indeterminate or spontaneous (can't argue with that logic).
Recordings do exist, though I can't say with any authority that they give due reflection of his work (but then again, I think one has to see them performed to really get the full experience). They include Cheap Imitation, Empty Words, and Part III: Live Teatro Lyrico Di Milano. Others have recorded some of his individual songs.
I will say that his earlier work is different from his later stuff. His early compositions included things for the prepared piano and included his famous "Sonatas and Interludes." Later compositions are heavily influenced by Zen and other Eastern philosophy.
Hope that helps