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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution

Yates, Peter
Book reviews: the question of "stasis",   pp. 333-343 PDF (8.4 MB)

Page 342

342      he owes some obligation, but this
is not so. Throughout the years his
attacks on Schoenberg, with whom he
studied, Stravinsky, Ives, Varbse,
his condescension toward
compositional procedures outside
those of his immediate circle have been
embarrassing to read. Schoenberg spoke
to me of Cage as "an inventor of
genius." Cage was proud to hear it,
yet in his new book, A Year from Monday,
he includes a review, written in
1965, of Schoenberg's published
Letters, which is cruel and distorted,
the more so when compared with
Stravinsky's beautiful and eloquent
review. (Igor Stravinsky and Robert
Craft, Themes and Episodes).
In 1959 Cage dismissed Ives:
"His meters and rhythms are no longer
any more important for us than
curiosities of the past like the patterns
one finds in Stravinsky." In 1966
Cage was gratified when, by establishing
communication, I enabled him to
meet Stravinsky. Cage told me in
1966 that he had changed his mind
about Ives and had written two
statements to prove it. In the new
book the two statements are
reproduced in his own handwriting.
Cage said to me as we were bouncing
through the woods to his home near
Stony Point, New York: "You won't
agree with what I have to say about Ives,
that what I like best in his music is the
mud." I replied: "You have been
unfortunate. When you hear this
music properly performed there is no
mud." The mud is still in the statement.
And Cage writes: "I don't so much
admire the way Ives treated his music
socially (separating it from his
insurance business): it made his life
too safe economically and it is in
living dangerously economically that
one shows 'bravery' socially."
Compare this statement in Cage's
Lecture on Commitment: " . . I myself
feel more committed the more diverse and
multiplied my interests and actions
Cage has been always generous and
helpful to younger composers, some
of whom afterwards repudiated him, a
treatment he appears to accept without
resentment. When a couple of years ago
he proposed to Boulez that they publish
their correspondence of the later
1940s, Boulez replied that he had
destroyed the letters.
There is also a feeling of strain,
of personal tension insecurely resolved,
in much of Cage's praising. He has a
habit of turning to certain men as
oracles, at present Duchamp, Buckminster
Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, N 0 Brown.
Recall his statement that Varese "is
an artist of the past. Rather than
dealing with sounds as sound, he deals
with them as Varese." One cannot
help but observe the prevalence of
the "I" throughout this latest book.
In the expression of thought Cage is
intensely subjective: everything he knows
is what he thinks about it. When I
asked what he thought about Bartok-
"All tonic and dominant!" But in
the work of his craft, composing, laying
out a score, cutting and assembling
a complex tape, designing a book,
organizing any of the several money-
raising projects for his Performance
Arts Foundation, he is calmly and
discriminatively objective, unhesitant,
fearlessly efficient. When he needs
money for a cause he can ask for
it and get it.
He has distilled his life into hundreds
of anecdotes, the feedback of his
observations, experiences, and
friendships. When he reads aloud these
stories, which are scattered through the
two books, each story is stretched or
hurried to fill exactly one minute. His

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