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Program Information
All Things Cage
Weekly program featuring conversations between Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust, and Cage experts and enthusiasts from around the world.
Weekly Program
Weekly program featuring conversations between Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust, and Cage experts and enthusiasts from around the world.
 Wave Farm/WGXC 90.7-FM  Contact Contributor
"All Things Cage" is a weekly program featuring conversations between Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust, and Cage experts and enthusiasts from around the world. If youd like to propose a guest or a topic for a future program, write directly to Laura at lkuhn@johncage.org.
One author whose work held special interest for John Cage was Henry David Thoreau. As Hans Otte recounts in his beautiful liner notes that accompany the New World Records CD 80540 that captured the collaborative production of Cages Mureau and David Tudors Rainforest II as performed simultaneously under the auspices of the Pro Musica Nova Festival for Radio Bremen on May 5, 1972,

Cage was introduced to Thoreaus journals in 1966, was reading his work intensively by 1967, and enrolled as a life member in the Thoreau Society in 1968. It is not difficult to see why he would have been so attracted to this author. Cage may have been drawn to Thoreaus idealism, his dedication to a life of simplicity, his distrust of institutions (including governments), and his reflections on the virtue of Civil Disobedience"all told, an anarchic life-view rather similar to Cages own. In addition, there was Thoreaus way of perceiving, and responding to, music and sound in general. (Cage quotes Thoreau has having described music as bubbles on the surface of silence"an aphorism that Cage himself might have coined, and closer to the sensibility of Japanese haiku than New England.) In 1970 Cage composed the piece called Mureau, in which phrases from Thoreaus journals (in particular, passages which touch on the subject of music) are used as the springboard for an elaborate collage. The resultant fabric combines elements of sense and nonsense, as it veers between contextual meaning and a sort of abstract, linguistic vocalise. In discussing Mureau, the composer noted that the work . . . departs from conventional syntax. It is a mix of letters, syllables, words, phrases, and sentences. I wrote it by subjecting all the remarks of Henry David Thoreau about music, silence and sounds . . . to a series of I Ching chance operations. The personal pronoun was varied according to such operations and the typing was likewise determined. In fact, the printed text (or score!) of Mureau presents a dazzling, bewildering array of typefaces, with individual letters or letter-groups offset in italics and/or boldface. It offers a uniquely Cageian middle-ground between music and poetry. Significantly, despite the works striking visual character, it is meant to be read aloud" performed"rather than perceived only as a visual pattern. A further level of ambiguity can be found in the works title, which links the first syllable of Music to the last of Thoreau. (Ten years later, in a similar vein, Cage would compose Muoyce, or Music- Joyce, subjecting passages of Joyce to even more elaborate chance operations.) In Cages public readings of Mureau, he explored a number of performance variables"differences in tempo, vocal timbre, pitch, register, and dynamics.

We listen tonight to an extended excerpt of Cages Mureau, as performed at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado in January 1979.
The late Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kenneth Silverman once described his "Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage" (Knopf, 2012) as the hardest book hed ever written. This was because, as he put it, pick up any rock and theres John Cage! Indeed, Cage was not only a world-renowned composer, numbering among his compositions the still notoriously tacet 433, but a ground-breaking poet, a philosopher, a chess master who studied with Marcel Duchamp, a macrobiotic chef, a devotee of Zen Buddhism, a prolific visual artist, and an avid and pioneering mycologist. He was also life partner to the celebrated American choreographer, Merce Cunningham, for nearly half a century, and thus well known in the world of modern dance. Episode 057. EVERGREEN

John Cage, Performing "Mureau" at Naropa, January 1979 Download Program Podcast
Weekly program featuring conversations between Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust, and Cage experts and enthusiasts from around the world.
00:58:28 1 Feb. 24, 2022
Produced for Wave Farm in the Hudson Valley in New York.
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