I'll take what's behind door number 4'33".
May 18, 2007 9:07 PM   Subscribe

John Cage gives a little concert on a 1960's gameshow called "I've Got a Secret." (Flashvid)
posted by converge (33 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
That's so much more punk-rock than any of the john cage videos I'd seen before (like this youtube docusomething).

posted by runehog at 9:24 PM on May 18, 2007

The best thing about the appearance is the fact that two of the unions involved in the show could not agree which one's workers would plug in the radios for Cage's performance. I don't have the details, but I bet they were disputing whether the radios were musical instruments or electronics or props, etc. Which is exactly a debate that probably delighted Cage.
posted by argybarg at 9:27 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow, what a find, this is priceless! Makes me wish there had been a lot more presenting of experimental and avant garde music on television thoughout recent history: the presentation of such music on TV as something potentially entertaining, fun and interesting might've gone a long way toward demystifying it. Toward making it something to be approached with an open mind, appreciable by everyone, non-elitist. True, this performance of Cage's was met with peals of laughter, and was most likely regarded by the audience as nothing more than wackiness and clownery, but perhaps over time, once the easy laughs had died down a bit, there might've been an advancement of the general public's awareness of the expanding boundaries of music. There might've been a bit more opening up of the ears and the mind.

But of course, as we all know, television's amazing potential for education and enlightenment remained largely unrealized. One of the great tragedies of the modern era.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:28 PM on May 18, 2007

BTW, converge, nice post title!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:29 PM on May 18, 2007

Here's the clip on WFMU's Beware of the Blog (certainly one of the best sites of its kind on the web), with a little bit of background info and a handy "download this clip" link.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:34 PM on May 18, 2007

Cool find converge!
posted by vronsky at 9:36 PM on May 18, 2007

The radio incident reminded me of when I met Cage in Hong Kong in the 1980s. He wanted to bring some cacti with him to amplify and stroke - they had a wonderful sound, he said - but the agriculture dept. wouldn't let him bring a plant into the country.
posted by QuietDesperation at 9:47 PM on May 18, 2007

You met John Cage? My god, that must have been fascinating. Please, man, relate the full story.
posted by converge at 9:55 PM on May 18, 2007

flapjax: WFMU is absolutely a site deserving of more attention. And I agree with your previous statement about the demystifying powers of mass-media. The CBC used to be great for that.
posted by converge at 9:59 PM on May 18, 2007

John Cage links
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:00 PM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Excellent link, thanks!

Those who like it may also like this.
posted by dobbs at 10:23 PM on May 18, 2007

He wanted to bring some cacti with him to amplify and stroke - they had a wonderful sound, he said
Seconding the request for the whole story. You can't just throw out a titbit like that and leave me wondering. Spill it. Please.
posted by tellurian at 10:47 PM on May 18, 2007

He wanted to bring some cacti with him to amplify and stroke - they had a wonderful sound, he said

I've not had the good fortune of once meeting Mr. Cage, but have heard that piece (or at least a piece which used amplified cacti) performed by a Cage scholar. It was incredibly, totally unexpectedly, moving. Sounded kind of like rain, but it also, paradoxically, evoked desert.
posted by treepour at 11:02 PM on May 18, 2007

Absolutely fantastic. One of the best (in my opinion) Metafilter posts ever, if only because I never would have seen it otherwise. Thank you converge
posted by inoculatedcities at 11:08 PM on May 18, 2007

Great post. For some reason, it's the prominently displayed "Winston" cigarette ad on the participants' desk that stood out for me.

So quaint.
posted by bardic at 11:20 PM on May 18, 2007

This is wonderful! Thanks, converge.
posted by honest knave at 11:45 PM on May 18, 2007

I can't believe I missed this on WFMU. Thanks for posting.
posted by obvious at 11:46 PM on May 18, 2007

Utterly awesome.
posted by thethirdman at 11:59 PM on May 18, 2007

alright, I'll be the asshole who doesn't get experimental music like this.

Seriously, I can appreciate it on a absurdist, DaDa level, and find it very entertaining, but the sound was so sparse and far apart, I couldn't even tell you what i heard.
posted by Parannoyed at 12:05 AM on May 19, 2007

I've said it elsewhere, but I'll say it here too. This is the 3 Degrees of Celebrity Board Games Separation Game.

In, oh, 1986, I got a game for christmas called Rummikub. My family learned to play and taught other family members, all of whom were from out of state. My grandparents taught my aunt (great aunt, actually, grandmother's sister). She was an artist in Asheville and a close friend of John Cage.

She taught him the game and he became, if not an addict, then an adherent, playing at her house several times a month.

So I am somehow responsible for teaching John Cage Rummikub.

posted by mudpuppie at 12:41 AM on May 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

God, I love John Cage. I'd already seen this video, but I never mind be reminded what an amazing guy he was.
posted by Hildegarde at 2:28 AM on May 19, 2007

but the sound was so sparse and far apart

Speaking of sparse and far apart.
posted by msbrauer at 7:03 AM on May 19, 2007

What a great post to start my weekend - put my head in just the right place. Thanks!

And I love the way the panelists moved their own desk.
posted by SNACKeR at 7:10 AM on May 19, 2007

msbrauer, thanks for that link: plenty of amusing comments in that thread!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:49 AM on May 19, 2007

thank you for the link to the program and to the story. this is wonderful.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:18 AM on May 19, 2007

The union dispute and Cage's line: "I find laughter preferable to tears" were priceless. Also, amazing to see the young John Cage performing. I've never been a fan of the recorded Cage (except for Sonatas and Interludes, but that's a whole diff'rent thing), but watching (or being involved in) a performance is awesome. I was in a performance of Song Book a while back. I got to play amplified blackboard (with chalk) and typewriter. What many people miss in Cage's music is the joy at doing unexpected things. There is something about hearing your chalkboard scribblings amplified very loud that is extremely silly and very much fun. It also sounds amazing. Also the visual presentation of his pieces is such a factor. His performance always confronted what I call musician pornography. Most people really love to watch someone perform a physical action to make music (which is why laptop peformers have had a tough time convincing musical civilians that they're doing anything at all), and Cage really gave you a treat, in that respect. That's another thing people miss in his stuff; he was trying to give you a treat.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 11:38 AM on May 19, 2007

but the sound was so sparse and far apart
Blame the freaking unions, man.
*Storms off to watch Blue Collar*

Related, and also very fun: Zappa plays bicycles on the Steve Allen Show, 1963.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:41 PM on May 19, 2007

So that's where John Zorn got his dip-the-birdcall-in-water idea. I mean, it's just too coincidental.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 1:05 PM on May 19, 2007

So enjoyed that! The audience got such a kick out of the performance and he seemed to beam with joy about that Cage had at the end. So life affirming about the music of the everyday world.
posted by nickyskye at 4:14 PM on May 19, 2007

Okay, sorry for the delay. Not much of a story, really. Cage and his ensemble were accompanying Merce Cunningham's troupe at the Hong Kong Arts Festival. Cunningham himself (then around 70) came out and danced a solo, which was riveting; The old man still had it in him. After the concert I approached the stage (the concert was held in an indoor stadium) and began to chat with him. I found him to be a lovely man, very open and unaffected (just as he was in the clip above), and obsessed with nothing apart from sounds, which fascinated him endlessly. In place of the cactus he'd found some dry sticks whose sound he enjoyed, so he wasn't particularly put out by the confiscation of his cacti - it was par for the course, I supposed.

It wasn't the time or place to discuss his philosophies of art (which I knew anyway from his writings), so I just enjoyed the moment. As I said, not much to tell.
posted by QuietDesperation at 4:24 PM on May 19, 2007

The best post ever on Metafilter. And I have seen thousands. Of posts/links. Obviously, I am a Cage fan.

What really hit me was his knocking the radios off the tables.

I guess The Who was not the first of musicians to destroy or mangle their instruments as part of their performance.

Long live Cage and Coltrane.
posted by kozad at 6:31 PM on May 19, 2007

QuietDesperation: thank you.

That's a beautiful little anecdote. The dance must have been, as you said, riveting. I also envy that you've experienced Cunnigham's choreography firsthand.

Cage was such a sweet, wise man. I'm glad you had the chance. Makes me smile.
posted by converge at 6:09 AM on May 20, 2007

I met Cage in 1990. Got to sit in on a seminar with him. Wonderful, strange, slightly senile, but still brilliant man.
posted by ilsa at 2:02 PM on May 20, 2007

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