Thursday, October 15, 2009


I've come to admire Cage's philosophy of compositition and music, his celebration of sound as beautiful without orchestration for man's purposes. In the world of composers, too often it seems that the sounds themselves are only means to an end, rather than ends in themselves, only tools by which the composer or musician communicates their message or expresses their emotion. In choosing to remove his tastes from his music, Cage allowed the sounds to be the meaning, rather than assign meaning to them. This, I find admirable.

But, I do sometimes wonder if this approach is lacking in something that seems so integral to creation. Inspiration. It's the stimulus behind artistic work, that which sparks the desire to create something beautiful. I don't think that Cage's approach to composing music through indeterminacy leaves room for inspiration because it attempts to take all emotion out of the process. Emotion and inspiration are inseparable. One can't be inspired without the impetus, the longing to express something.

In a way, I feel that this could be seen as a deficiency in Cage's work. I'm sure he would adamantly disagree with me. He would claim that the highest purpose is to have no purpose. He would insist that sounds need not be given purpose, that they can exist as they are. I wouldn't put it past him to say that I just don't understand the Zen of it all, and he might even sigh and shake his head at me. But I can't help it. Perhaps I'm a hopeless case, brainwashed in romanticism, but I believe that feeling is important to the artist and makes for some of the best artistic work. I know I couldn't dance if I felt nothing. I know I wouldn't paint either.

Maybe it's alright for Cage, but I just can't see keeping a desire to come back to my art if I weren't emotionally involved. Inspiration is, indeed, a beautiful thing.

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