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Full text of "Silence : lectures and writings"

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LIBRARY OF 
WELLESLEY COLLEGE 




PURCHASED FROM 
LIBRARY FUNDS 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2012 with funding from 
Wellesley College Library 



http://archive.org/details/silencelecturesw1961cage 



SILENCE 



Lectures 



and 



writings 



by 



JOHN 



CAGE 




DO, 




cas 




WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY PRESS Middletown, Connecticut 



Many of these lectures and articles have been delivered or published elsewhere 
in the past two decades. The headnote preceding each one makes grateful ac- 
knowledgment of its precise source. 

The design used on the endpapers is a part of the score of Mr. Cage's Concert 
for Piano and Orchestra, for Elaine de Kooning, copyright © I960 by Henmar 
Press Inc. 




Copyright © 1939, 1944, 1949, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961 by John Cage 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 61-14238 
Manufactured in the United States of America 
First Edition 



USIC LIBRAE 



To Whom It May Concern 



CONTENTS 



Foreword / ix 

Manifesto / xii 

The Future of Music: Credo I 3 

Experimental Music / 7 

Experimental Music: Doctrine / 13 

Composition as Process / 18 

I. Changes / 18 

II. Indeterminacy I 35 

III. Communication / 41 

Composition / 57 

To Describe the Process of Composition Used in Music 
of Changes and Imaginary Landscape No. 4/57 

To Describe the Process of Composition Used in Music 
for Piano 21-52 / 60 

Forerunners of Modern Music / 62 

History of Experimental Music in the United States / 67 

Erik Satie I 76 

Edgard Varese / 83 

Four Statements on the Dance / 86 

Goal: New Music, New Dance / 87 

Grace and Clarity / 89 

In This Day . . . / 94 

2 Pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance / 96 
On Robert Rauschenberg, Artist, and His Work / 98 
Lecture on Nothing / 109 
Lecture on Something / 128 
45' for a Speaker / 146 

Where Are We Going? and What Are We Doing? / 194 
Indeterminacy / 260 
Music Lovers' Field Companion / 274 



FOREWORD 



For over twenty years I have been writing articles and giving lectures. 
Many of them have been unusual in form— this is especially true of the lec- 
tures—because I have employed in them means of composing analogous to 
my composing means in the field of music. My intention has been, often, to 
say what I had to say in a way that would exemplify it; that would, con- 
ceivably, permit the listener to experience what I had to say rather than 
just hear about it. This means that, being as I am engaged in a variety of 
activities, I attempt to introduce into each one of them aspects convention- 
ally limited to one or more of the others. 

So it was that I gave about 1949 my Lecture on Nothing at the Artists' 
Club on Eighth Street in New York City (the artists' club started by Robert 
Motherwell, which predated the popular one associated with Philip Pavia, 
Bill de Kooning, et al. ) . This Lecture on Nothing was written in the same 
rhythmic structure I employed at the time in my musical compositions 
( Sonatas and Interludes, Three Dances, etc. ) . One of the structural divi- 
sions was the repetition, some fourteen times, of a single page in which 
occurred the refrain, "If anyone is sleepy let him go to sleep." Jeanne 
Reynal, I remember, stood up part way through, screamed, and then said, 
while I continued speaking, "John, I dearly love you, but I can't bear 
another minute." She then walked out. Later, during the question period, 
I gave one of six previously prepared answers regardless of the question 
asked. This was a reflection of my engagement in Zen. 

FOREWORD/ix 



At Black Mountain College in 1952, 1 organized an event that involved 
the paintings of Bob Rauschenberg, the dancing of Merce Cunningham, 
films, slides, phonograph records, radios, the poetries of Charles Olson and 
M. C. Richards recited from the tops of ladders, and the pianism of David 
Tudor, together with my Juilliard lecture, which ends: "A piece of string, 
a sunset, each acts." The audience was seated in the center of all this activ- 
ity. Later that summer, vacationing in New England, I visited America's 
first synagogue, to discover that the congregation was there seated pre- 
cisely the way I had arranged the audience at Black Mountain. 

As I look back, I realize that a concern with poetry was early with me. 
At Pomona College, in response to questions about the Lake poets, I wrote 
in the manner of Gertrude Stein, irrelevantly and repetitiously. I got an A. 
The second time I did it I was failed. Since the Lecture on Nothing there 
have been more than a dozen pieces that were unconventionally written, 
including some that were done by means of chance operations and one that 
was largely a series of questions left unanswered. When M. C. Richards 
asked me why I didn't one day give a conventional informative lecture, 
adding that that would be the most shocking thing I could do, I said, "I 
don't give these lectures to surprise people, but out of a need for poetry." 

As I see it, poetry is not prose simply because poetry is in one way or 
another formalized. It is not poetry by reason of its content or ambiguity 
but by reason of its allowing musical elements (time, sound) to be intro- 
duced into the world of words. Thus, traditionally, information no matter 
how stuffy (e.g., the sutras and shastras of India) was transmitted in 
poetry. It was easier to grasp that way. Karl Shapiro may have been think- 
ing along these lines when he wrote his Essay on Rime in poetry. 

Committing these formalized lectures to print has presented certain 
problems, and some of the solutions reached are compromises between 
what would have been desirable and what was practicable. The lecture 
Where Are We Going? and What Are We Doing? is an example. In this 
and other cases, a headnote explains the means to be used in the event of 
oral delivery. 

Not all these pieces, of course, are unusual in form. Several were writ- 
ten to be printed— that is, to be seen rather than to be heard. Several others 
were composed and delivered as conventional informative lectures (with- 
out shocking their audiences for that reason, so far as I could determine). 



x/SILENCE 



This collection does not include all that I have written; it does reflect what 
have been, and continue to be, my major concerns. 

Critics frequently cry "Dada" after attending one of my concerts or 
hearing one of my lectures. Others bemoan my interest in Zen. One of the 
liveliest lectures I ever heard was given by Nancy Wilson Ross at the 
Cornish School in Seattle. It was called Zen Buddhism and Dada. It is pos- 
sible to make a connection between the two, but neither Dada nor Zen is 
a fixed tangible. They change; and in quite different ways in different 
places and times, they invigorate action. What was Dada in the 1920's is 
now, with the exception of the work of Marcel Duchamp, just art. What I 
do, I do not wish blamed on Zen, though without my engagement with 
Zen ( attendance at lectures by Alan Watts and D. T. Suzuki, reading of 
the literature) I doubt whether I would have done what I have done. I am 
told that Alan Watts has questioned the relation between my work and 
Zen. I mention this in order to free Zen of any responsibility for my actions. 
I shall continue making them, however. I often point out that Dada nowa- 
days has in it a space, an emptiness, that it formerly lacked. What now- 
adays, America mid-twentieth century, is Zen? 

I am grateful to Richard K. Winslow, composer, whose musical ways 
are different from mine, who seven years ago, as Professor of Music at 
Wesleyan University, engaged David Tudor and me for a concert and 
who, at the time as we were walking along, introduced me without warn- 
ing to his habit of suddenly quietly singing. Since then, he has twice invited 
us back to Wesleyan, even though our programs were consistently percus- 
sive, noisy, and silent, and the views which I expressed were consistently 
antischolastic and anarchic. He helped obtain for me the Fellowship at the 
Wesleyan Center for Advanced Studies which, in spite of the air-condition- 
ing, I have enjoyed during the last academic year. And he inspired the 
University Press to publish this book. The reader may argue the propri- 
ety of this support, but he must admire, as I do, Winslow's courage and 
unselfishness. 

-J.C. 

June 1961 

FOREWORD/xi 



The text below was written for Julian Beck and Judith Molina, directors of the 
Living Theatre, for use in their program booklet when they were performing at 
the Cherry Lane Theatre, Greenwich Village, New York. 



written in response i 

toarequestfor \ . , ,,.,, 

) instantaneous and unpredictable 

a manifesto on ( 

music, 1952 1 

nothing is accomplished by writing a piece of music J our ears are 

- « " - hearing" " " " > now 

" " " " playing" " " " \ in excellent condition 



—John CA9E 



xM/SILENCE 



SILENCE 



V. 



The following text was delivered as a talk at a meeting of a Seattle arts society 
organized by Bonnie Bird in 1937. It was printed in the brochure accompanying 
George Avakian's recording of my twenty-five-year retrospective concert 
at Town Hall, New York, in 1958. 



THE FUTURE OF MUSIC: CREDO 



I BELIEVE THAT THE USE OF NOISE 

Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly 
noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it 
fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the 
stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them 
not as sound effects but as musical instruments. Every film studio has a 
library of "sound effects" recorded on film. With a film phonograph it is now 
possible to control the amplitude and frequency of any one of these sounds 
and to give to it rhythms within or beyond the reach of the imagination. 
Given four film phonographs, we can compose and perform a quartet for 
explosive motor, wind, heartbeat, and landslide. 

TO MAKE MUSIC 

If this word "music" is 
sacred and reserved for eighteenth- and nineteenth-century instruments, 
we can substitute a more meaningful term: organization of sound. 

WILL CONTINUE AND IN- 
CREASE UNTIL WE REACH A MUSIC PRODUCED THROUGH THE ADD OF ELECTRICAL 
INSTRUMENTS 

Most inventors of electrical musical instruments have at- 
tempted to imitate eighteenth- and nineteenth-century instruments, just as 
early automobile designers copied the carriage. The Novachord and the 

THE FUTURE OF MUSIC: CREDO/3 



Solovox are examples of this desire to imitate the past rather than construct 
the future. When Theremin provided an instrument with genuinely new 
possibilities, Thereministes did their utmost to make the instrument sound 
like some old instrument, giving it a sickeningly sweet vibrato, and per- 
forming upon it, with difficulty, masterpieces from the past. Although the 
instrument is capable of a wide variety of sound qualities, obtained by the 
turning of a dial, Thereministes act as censors, giving the public those 
sounds they think the public will like. We are shielded from new sound 
experiences. 

The special function of electrical instruments will be to pro- 
vide complete control of the overtone structure of tones (as opposed to 
noises) and to make these tones available in any frequency, amplitude, 
and duration. 

WHICH WILL MAKE AVAILABLE FOR MUSICAL PURPOSES ANY AND 
ALL SOUNDS THAT CAN BE HEARD. PHOTOELECTRIC, FILM, AND MECHANICAL 
MEDIUMS FOR THE SYNTHETIC PRODUCTION OF MUSIC 

It is now possible for 
composers to make music directly, without the assistance of intermediary 
performers. Any design repeated often enough on a sound track is audible. 
Two hundred and eighty circles per second on a sound track will produce 
one sound, whereas a portrait of Beethoven repeated fifty times per second 
on a sound track will have not only a different pitch but a different sound 
quality. 

WILL BE EXPLORED. 
WHEREAS, IN THE PAST, THE POINT OF DISAGREEMENT HAS BEEN BETWEEN DIS- 
SONANCE AND CONSONANCE, IT WILL BE, IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE, BETWEEN 
NOISE AND SO-CALLED MUSICAL SOUNDS. 

THE PRESENT METHODS 
OF WRITING MUSIC, PRINCIPALLY THOSE WHICH EMPLOY HARMONY AND ITS 
REFERENCE TO PARTICULAR STEPS IN THE FTELD OF SOUND, WELL BE INADEQUATE 
FOR THE COMPOSER, WHO WELL BE FACED WITH THE ENTTRE FEELD OF SOUND. 



4/SILENCE 



The composer ( organizer of sound ) will be faced not only with the entire 
field of sound but also with the entire field of time. The "frame" or fraction 
of a second, following established film technique, will probably be the basic 
unit in the measurement of time. No rhythm will be beyond the composer's 
reach. 

NEW METHODS WILL BE DISCOVERED, BEARING A DEFINITE RELATION TO SCHOEN- 
BERG'S TWELVE-TONE SYSTEM 

Schoenberg's method assigns to each material, 
in a group of equal materials, its function with respect to the group. ( Har- 
mony assigned to each material, in a group of unequal materials, its func- 
tion with respect to the fundamental or most important material in the 
group. ) Schoenberg's method is analogous to a society in which the empha- 
sis is on the group and the integration of the individual in the group. 

AND PRESENT METHODS OF WRITING PERCUSSION 
MUSIC 

Percussion music is a contemporary transition from keyboard-influ- 
enced music to the all-sound music of the future. Any sound is acceptable to 
the composer of percussion music; he explores the academically forbidden 
"non-musical" field of sound insofar as is manually possible. 

Methods of writing percussion music have as their goal the rhythmic 
structure of a composition. As soon as these methods are crystallized into 
one or several widely accepted methods, the means will exist for group im- 
provisations of unwritten but culturally important music. This has already 
taken place in Oriental cultures and in hot jazz. 

AND ANY OTHER METHODS WHICH ARE FREE FROM THE CONCEPT OF A 
FUNDAMENTAL TONE. 

THE PRINCIPLE OF 
FORM WILL BE OUR ONLY CONSTANT CONNECTION WITH THE PAST. ALTHOUGH 
THE GREAT FORM OF THE FUTURE WILL NOT BE AS IT WAS IN THE PAST, AT 

THE FUTURE OF MUSIC: CREDO/5 



ONE TIME THE FUGUE AND AT ANOTHER THE SONATA, IT WILL BE RELATED TO 
THESE AS THEY ARE TO EACH OTHER: 

Before this happens, centers of experi- 
mental music must be established. In these centers, the new materials, 
oscillators, turntables, generators, means for amplifying small sounds, film 
phonographs, etc., available for use. Composers at work using twentieth- 
century means for making music. Performances of results. Organization 
of sound for extra-musical purposes (theatre, dance, radio, film). 

THROUGH 
THE PRINCIPLE OF ORGANIZATION OR MAN'S COMMON ABILITY TO THINK. 



It was a Wednesday. I was in the sixth grade. I overheard Dad saying to Mother, "Get ready: we're 
going to New Zealand Saturday." I got ready. I read everything I could find in the school library about 
New Zealand. Saturday came. Nothing happened. The project was not even mentioned, that day or any 
succeeding day. 

M. C. Richards went to see the Bolshoi Ballet. She was delighted with the dancing. She said, "It's not 
what they do; it's the ardor with which they do it." I said, "Yes: composition, performance, and audition or 
observation are really different things. They have next to nothing to do with one another." Once, I told her, 
I was at a house on Riverside Drive where people were invited to be present at a Zen service conducted by 
a Japanese Roshi. He did the ritual, rose petals and all. Afterwards tea was served with rice cookies. And 
then the hostess and her husband, employing an out-of-tune piano and a cracked voice, gave a wretched 
performance of an excerpt from a third-rate Italian opera. I was embarrassed and glanced towards the Roshi 
to see how he was taking it. The expression on his face was absolutely beatific. 

A young man in Japan arranged his circumstances so that he was able to travel to a distant island to 
study Zen with a certain Master for a three-year period. At the end of the three years, feeling no sense of 
accomplishment, he presented himself to the Master and announced his departure. The Master said, "You've 
been here three years. Why don't you stay three months more?" The student agreed, but at the end of the 
three months he still felt that he had made no advance. When he told the Master again that he was leaving, 
the Master said, "Look now, you've been here three years and three months. Stay three weeks longer." The 
student did, but with no success. When he told the Master that absolutely nothing had happened, the Master 
said, "You've been here three years, three months, and three weeks. Stay three more days, and if, at the 
end of that time, you have not attained enlightenment, commit suicide." Towards the end of the second 
day, the student was enlightened. 

6/SILENCE 



The following statement was given as an address to the convention of the 
Music Teachers National Association in Chicago in the winter of 1957. It was 
printed in the brochure accompanying George Avakian's recording of 
my twenty-five-year retrospective concert at Town Hall, New York, in 1958. 



EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC 



Formerly, whenever anyone said the music I presented was experimental, 
I objected. It seemed to me that composers knew what they were doing, 
and that the experiments that had been made had taken place prior to the 
finished works, just as sketches are made before paintings and rehearsals 
precede performances. But, giving the matter further thought, I realized 
that there is ordinarily an essential difference between making a piece of 
music and hearing one. A composer knows his work as a woodsman knows 
a path he has traced and retraced, while a listener is confronted by the 
same work as one is in the woods by a plant he has never seen before. 

Now, on the other hand, times have changed; music has changed; and 
I no longer object to the word "experimental." I use it in fact to describe all 
the music that especially interests me and to which I am devoted, whether 
someone else wrote it or I myself did. What has happened is that I have 
become a listener and the music has become something to hear. Many 
people, of course, have given up saying "experimental" about this new 
music. Instead, they either move to a halfway point and say "controversial" 
or depart to a greater distance and question whether this "music" is music 
at all. 

For in this new music nothing takes place but sounds: those that are 
notated and those that are not. Those that are not notated appear in the 

EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC/7 



written music as silences, opening the doors of the music to the sounds that 
happen to be in the environment. This openness exists in the fields of 
modern sculpture and architecture. The glass houses of Mies van der Rohe 
reflect their environment, presenting to the eye images of clouds, trees, or 
grass, according to the situation. And while looking at the constructions in 
wire of the sculptor Richard Lippold, it is inevitable that one will see other 
things, and people too, if they happen to be there at the same time, through 
the network of wires. There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty 
time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as 
we may to make a silence, we cannot. For certain engineering purposes, it 
is desirable to have as silent a situation as possible. Such a room is called an 
anechoic chamber, its six walls made of special material, a room without 
echoes. I entered one at Harvard University several years ago and heard 
two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer 
in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in 
operation, the low one my blood in circulation. Until I die there will be 
sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear 
about the future of music. 

But this fearlessness only follows if, at the parting of the ways, where 
it is realized that sounds occur whether intended or not, one turns in the 
direction of those he does not intend. This turning is psychological and 
seems at first to be a giving up of everything that belongs to humanity— for 
a musician, the giving up of music. This psychological turning leads to the 
world of nature, where, gradually or suddenly, one sees that humanity 
and nature, not separate, are in this world together; that nothing was lost 
when everything was given away. In fact, everything is gained. In musical 
terms, any sounds may occur in any combination and in any continuity. 

And it is a striking coincidence that just now the technical means to 
produce such a free-ranging music are available. When the Allies entered 
Germany towards the end of World War II, it was discovered that improve- 
ments had been made in recording sounds magnetically such that tape had 
become suitable for the high-fidelity recording of music. First in France 
with the work of Pierre Schaeffer, later here, in Germany, in Italy, in Japan, 
and perhaps, without my knowing it, in other places, magnetic tape was 



8/SILENCE 



used not simply to record performances of music but to make a new music 
that was possible only because of it. Given a minimum of two tape recorders 
and a disk recorder, the following processes are possible: 1 ) a single record- 
ing of any sound may be made; 2) a rerecording may be made, in the 
course of which, by means of filters and circuits, any or all of the physical 
characteristics of a given recorded sound may be altered; 3) electronic 
mixing (combining on a third machine sounds issuing from two others) 
permits the presentation of any number of sounds in combination; 4 ) ordi- 
nary splicing permits the juxtaposition of any sounds, and when it includes 
unconventional cuts, it, like rerecording, brings about alterations of any or 
all of the original physical characteristics. The situation made available by 
these means is essentially a total sound-space, the limits of which are ear- 
determined only, the position of a particular sound in this space being the 
result of five determinants: frequency or pitch, amplitude or loudness, 
overtone structure or timbre, duration, and morphology ( how the sound 
begins, goes on, and dies away). By the alteration of any one of these 
determinants, the position of the sound in sound-space changes. Any sound 
at any point in this total sound-space can move to become a sound at any 
other point. But advantage can be taken of these possibilities only if one is 
willing to change one's musical habits radically. That is, one may take 
advantage of the appearance of images without visible transition in distant 
places, which is a way of saying "television," if one is willing to stay at home 
instead of going to a theatre. Or one may fly if one is willing to give up 
walking. 

Musical habits include scales, modes, theories of counterpoint and har- 
mony, and the study of the timbres, singly and in combination of a 
limited number of sound-producing mechanisms. In mathematical terms 
these all concern discrete steps. They resemble walking— in the case of 
pitches, on steppingstones twelve in number. This cautious stepping is not 
characteristic of the possibilities of magnetic tape, which is revealing to us 
that musical action or existence can occur at any point or along any line 
or curve or what have you in total sound-space; that we are, in fact, tech- 
nically equipped to transform our contemporary awareness of nature's 
manner of operation into art. 

EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC/9 



Again there is a parting of the ways. One has a choice. If he does not 
wish to give up his attempts to control sound, he may complicate his musi- 
cal technique towards an approximation of the new possibilities and aware- 
ness. ( I use the word "approximation" because a measuring mind can never 
finally measure nature. ) Or, as before, one may give up the desire to control 
sound, clear his mind of music, and set about discovering means to let 
sounds be themselves rather than vehicles for man-made theories or expres- 
sions of human sentiments. 

This project will seem fearsome to many, but on examination it gives 
no cause for alarm. Hearing sounds which are just sounds immediately sets 
the theorizing mind to theorizing, and the emotions of human beings are 
continually aroused by encounters with nature. Does not a mountain unin- 
tentionally evoke in us a sense of wonder? otters along a stream a sense of 
mirth? night in the woods a sense of fear? Do not rain falling and mists 
rising up suggest the love binding heaven and earth? Is not decaying flesh 
loathsome? Does not the death of someone we love bring sorrow? And is 
there a greater hero than the least plant that grows? What is more angry 
than the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder? These responses to 
nature are mine and will not necessarily correspond with another's. Emo- 
tion takes place in the person who has it. And sounds, when allowed to be 
themselves, do not require that those who hear them do so unfeelingly. The 
opposite is what is meant by response ability. 

New music: new listening. Not an attempt to understand something 
that is being said, for, if something were being said, the sounds would be 
given the shapes of words. Just an attention to the activity of sounds. 



Those involved with the composition of experimental music find ways 
and means to remove themselves from the activities of the sounds they 
make. Some employ chance operations, derived from sources as ancient as 
the Chinese Book of Changes, or as modern as the tables of random num- 
bers used also by physicists in research. Or, analogous to the Rorschach 
tests of psychology, the interpretation of imperfections in the paper upon 
which one is writing may provide a music free from one's memory and 
imagination. Geometrical means employing spatial superimpositions at 



1 O/SILENCE 



variance with the ultimate performance in time may be used. The total field 
of possibilities may be roughly divided and the actual sounds within these 
divisions may be indicated as to number but left to the performer or to the 
splicer to choose. In this latter case, the composer resembles the maker of a 
camera who allows someone else to take the picture. 

Whether one uses tape or writes for conventional instruments, the 
present musical situation has changed from what it was before tape came 
into being. This also need not arouse alarm, for the coming into being of 
something new does not by that fact deprive what was of its proper place. 
Each thing has its own place, never takes the place of something else; and 
- the more things there are, as is said, the merrier. 

But several effects of tape on experimental music may be mentioned. 
Since so many inches of tape equal so many seconds of time, it has become 
more and more usual that notation is in space rather than in symbols of 
quarter, half, and sixteenth notes and so on. Thus where on a page a note 
appears will correspond to when in a time it is to occur. A stop watch is 
used to facilitate a performance; and a rhythm results which is a far cry 
from horse's hoofs and other regular beats. 

Also it has been impossible with the playing of several separate tapes 
at once to achieve perfect synchronization. This fact has led some towards 
the manufacture of multiple-tracked tapes and machines with a corre- 
sponding number of heads; while others— those who have accepted the 
sounds they do not intend— now realize that the score, the requiring that 
many parts be played in a particular togetherness, is not an accurate repre- 
sentation of how things are. These now compose parts but not scores, and 
the parts may be combined in any unthought ways. This means that each 
performance of such a piece of music is unique, as interesting to its com- 
poser as to others listening. It is easy to see again the parallel with nature, 
for even with leaves of the same tree, no two are exactly alike. The parallel 
in art is the sculpture with moving parts, the mobile. 

It goes without saying that dissonances and noises are welcome in this 
new music. But so is the dominant seventh chord if it happens to put in an 
appearance. 



EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC/11 






Rehearsals have shown that this new music, whether for tape or for in- 
struments, is more clearly heard when the several loud-speakers or per- 
formers are separated in space rather than grouped closely together. For 
this music is not concerned with harmoniousness as generally understood, 
where the quality of harmony results from a blending of several elements. 
Here we are concerned with the coexistence of dissimilars, and the central 
points where fusion occurs are many: the ears of the listeners wherever 
they are. This disharmony, to paraphrase Bergson's statement about dis- 
order, is simply a harmony to which many are unaccustomed. 

Where do we go from here? Towards theatre. That art more than 
music resembles nature. We have eyes as well as ears, and it is our busi- 
ness while we are alive to use them. 

And what is the purpose of writing music? One is, of course, not deal- 
ing with purposes but dealing with sounds. Or the answer must take the 
form of paradox: a purposeful purposelessness or a purposeless play. This 
play, however, is an affirmation of life— not an attempt to bring order out 
of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of 
waking up to the very life we're living, which is so excellent once one gets 
one's mind and one's desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord. 



When Xenia and I came to New York from Chicago, we arrived in the bus station with about twenty-five 
cents. We were expecting to stay for a while with Peggy Guggenheim and Max Ernst. Max Ernst had met 
us in Chicago and had said, "Whenever you come to New York, come and stay with us. We have a big 
house on the East River." I went to the phone booth in the bus station, put in a nickel, and dialed. Max Ernst 
answered. He didn't recognize my voice. Finally he said, "Are you thirsty?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, 
come over tomorrow for cocktails." I went back to Xenia and told her what had happened. She said, "Call 
him back. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose." I did. He said, "Oh! It's you. We've been 
waiting for you for weeks. Your room's ready. Come right over." 

Dad is an inventor. In 1912 his submarine had the world's record for staying under water. Running as 
it did by means of a gasoline engine, it left bubbles on the surface, so it was not employed during World 
War I. Dad says he does his best work when he is sound asleep. I was explaining at the New School that the 
way to get ideas is to do something boring. For instance, composing in such a way that the process of 
composing is boring induces ideas. They fly into one's head like birds. Is that what Dad meant? 

12/SILENCE 






This article, there titled Experimental Music, first appeared in The Score and 
I. M. A. Magazine, London, issue of June 1955. The inclusion of a dialogue 
between an uncompromising teacher and an unenlightened student, and the 
addition of the word "doctrine" to the original title, are references to 
the Huang-Po Doctrine of Universal Mind. 



EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC: DOCTRINE 



Objections are sometimes made by composers to the use of the term 
experimental as descriptive of their works, for it is claimed that any 
experiments that are made precede the steps that are finally taken with 
determination, and that this determination is knowing, having, in fact, a 
particular, if unconventional, ordering of the elements used in view. These 
objections are clearly justifiable, but only where, as among contemporary 
evidences in serial music, it remains a question of making a thing upon the 
boundaries, structure, and expression of which attention is focused. Where, 
on the other hand, attention moves towards the observation and audition of 
many things at once, including those that are environmental— becomes, 
that is, inclusive rather than exclusive— no question of making, in the sense 
of forming understandable structures, can arise (one is tourist), and here 
the word "experimental" is apt, providing it is understood not as descriptive 
of an act to be later judged in terms of success and failure, but simply as of 
an act the outcome of which is unknown. What has been determined? 

For, when, after convincing oneself ignorantly that sound has, as its 
clearly defined opposite, silence, that since duration is the only character- 
istic of sound that is measurable in terms of silence, therefore any valid 
structure involving sounds and silences should be based, not as occidentally 
traditional, on frequency, but rightly on duration, one enters an anechoic 
chamber, as silent as technologically possible in 1951, to discover that one 
hears two sounds of one's own unintentional making (nerve's systematic 
operation, blood's circulation ) , the situation one is clearly in is not objec- 

EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC: DOCTRINE/13 



tive (sound-silence), but rather subjective (sounds only), those intended 
and those others (so-called silence) not intended. If, at this point, one says, 
"Yes! I do not discriminate between intention and non-intention," the splits, 
subject-object, art-life, etc., disappear, an identification has been made with 
the material, and actions are then those relevant to its nature, i.e.: 

A sound does not view itself as thought, as ought, as needing another 
sound for its elucidation, as etc.; it has no time for any consideration— it is 
occupied with the performance of its characteristics: before it has died 
away it must have made perfectly exact its frequency, its loudness, its 
length, its overtone structure, the precise morphology of these and of itself. 

Urgent, unique, uninformed about history and theory, beyond the 
imagination, central to a sphere without surface, its becoming is unim- 
peded, energetically broadcast. There is no escape from its action. It does 
not exist as one of a series of discrete steps, but as transmission in all direc- 
tions from the field's center. It is inextricably synchronous with all other, 
sounds, non-sounds, which latter, received by other sets than the ear, oper 
ate in the same manner. 

A sound accomplishes nothing; without it life would not last out the 
instant. 

Relevant action is theatrical (music [imaginary separation of hearing 
from the other senses] does not exist), inclusive and intentionally pur- 
poseless. Theatre is continually becoming that it is becoming; each human 
being is at the best point for reception. Relevant response (getting up in 
the morning and discovering oneself musician) (action, art) can be made 
with any number (including none [none and number, like silence and 
music, are unreal] ) of sounds. The automatic minimum (see above) is two. 

Are you deaf (by nature, choice, desire) or can you hear (externals, 
tympani, labyrinths in whack)? 

Beyond them (ears) is the power of discrimination which, among 
other confused actions, weakly pulls apart (abstraction), ineffectually 
establishes as not to suffer alteration (the "work"), and unskillfully pro- 
tects from interruption (museum, concert hall) what springs, elastic, 
spontaneous, back together again with a beyond that power which is 
fluent (it moves in or out), pregnant (it can appear when- where- as 
what-ever [rose, nail, constellation, 485.73482 cycles per second, piece of 
string]), related (it is you yourself in the form you have that instant 



14/SILENCE 



taken), obscure (you will never be able to give a satisfactory report even 
to yourself of just what happened). 

In view, then, of a totality of possibilities, no knowing action is com- 
mensurate, since the character of the knowledge acted upon prohibits all 
but some eventualities. From a realist position, such action, though cau- 
tious, hopeful, and generally entered into, is unsuitable. An experimental 
action, generated by a mind as empty as it was before it became one, thus 
in accord with the possibility of no matter what, is, on the other hand, prac- 
tical. It does not move in terms of approximations and errors, as "informed" 
action by its nature must, for no mental images of what would happen were 
set up beforehand; it sees things directly as they are: impermanently in- 
volved in an infinite play of interpenetrations. Experimental music— 

Question: —in the U.S.A., if you please. Be more specific. What do 
you have to say about rhythm? Let us agree it is no longer a question of 
pattern, repetition, and variation. 

Answer: There is no need for such agreement. Patterns, repetitions, 
and variations will arise and disappear. However, rhythm is durations of 
any length coexisting in any states of succession and synchronicity. The 
latter is liveliest, most unpredictably changing, when the parts are not 
fixed by a score but left independent of one another, no two performances 
yielding the same resultant durations. The former, succession, liveliest 
when (as in Morton Feldman's Intersections) it is not fixed but presented 
in situation-form, entrances being at any point within a given period of 
time. — Notation of durations is in space, read as corresponding to time, 
needing no reading in the case of magnetic tape. 

Question: What about several players at once, an orchestra? 

Answer: You insist upon their being together? Then use, as Earle 
Brown suggests, a moving picture of the score, visible to all, a static vertical 
line as coordinator, past which the notations move. If you have no particu- 
lar togetherness in mind, there are chronometers. Use them. 

Question: I have noticed that you write durations that are beyond 
the possibility of performance. 

Answer: Composing's one thing, performing's another, listening's a 
third. What can they have to do with one another? 



EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC: DOCTRINE/15 



Question: And about pitches? 

Answer: It is true. Music is continually going up and down, but no 
longer only on those stepping stones, five, seven, twelve in number, or the 
quarter tones. Pitches are not a matter of likes and dislikes ( I have told 
you about the diagram Schillinger had stretched across his wall near the 
ceiling: all the scales, Oriental and Occidental, that had been in general 
use, each in its own color plotted against, no one of them identical with, a 
black one, the latter the scale as it would have been had it been physically 
based on the overtone series ) except for musicians in ruts; in the face of 
habits, what to do? Magnetic tape opens the door providing one doesn't 
immediately shut it by inventing a phonogene, or otherwise use it to recall 
or extend known musical possibilities. It introduces the unknown with such 
sharp clarity that anyone has the opportunity of having his habits blown 
away like dust. — For this purpose the prepared piano is also useful, espe- 
cially in its recent forms where, by alterations during a performance, an 
otherwise static gamut situation becomes changing. Stringed instruments 
(not string-players) are very instructive, voices too; and sitting still any- 
where ( the stereophonic, multiple-loud-speaker manner of operation in the 
everyday production of sounds and noises ) listening . . . 

Question : I understand Feldman divides all pitches into high, middle, 
and low, and simply indicates how many in a given range are to be played, 
leaving the choice up to the performer. 

Answer: Correct. That is to say, he used sometimes to do so; I haven't 
seen him lately. It is also essential to remember his notation of super- and 
subsonic vibrations ( Marginal Intersection No. 1 ) . 

Question: That is, there are neither divisions of the "canvas" nor 
"frame" to be observed? 

Answer: On the contrary, you must give the closest attention to 
everything. # ^ ^ 

Question: And timbre? 

Answer: No wondering what's next. Going lively on "through many a 
perilous situation." Did you ever listen to a symphony orchestra? 

* * * 

Question: Dynamics? 

Answer: These result from what actively happens (physically, me- 



16/SILENCE 






chanically, electronically) in producing a sound. You won't find it in the 
books. Notate that. As far as too loud goes: "follow the general outlines of 
the Christian life." 

Question: I have asked you about the various characteristics of a 
sound; how, now, can you make a continuity, as I take it your intention is, 
without intention? Do not memory, psychology — 

Answer: " — never again." 

Question: How? 

Answer: Christian Wolff introduced space actions in his composi- 
tional process at variance with the subsequently performed time actions. 
Earle Brown devised a composing procedure in which events, following 
tables of random numbers, are written out of sequence, possibly anywhere 
in a total time now and possibly anywhere else in the same total time next. 
I myself use chance operations, some derived from the I-Ching, others from 
the observation of imperfections in the paper upon which I happen to be 
writing. Your answer: by not giving it a thought. 

Question: Is this athematic? 

Answer: Who said anything about themes? It is not a question of 
having something to say. 

Question: Then what is the purpose of this "experimental" music? 

Answer: No purposes. Sounds. 

Question: Why bother, since, as you have pointed out, sounds are 
continually happening whether you produce them or not? 

Answer: What did you say? I'm still 

Question: I mean — But is this music? 

Answer: Ah! you like sounds after all when they are made up of 
vowels and consonants. You are slow-witted, for you have never brought 
your mind to the location of urgency. Do you need me or someone else to 
hold you up? Why don't you realize as I do that nothing is accomplished 
by writing, playing, or listening to music? Otherwise, deaf as a doornail, 
you will never be able to hear anything, even what's well within earshot. 

Question: But, seriously, if this is what music is, I could write it as 
well as you. 

Answer: Have I said anything that would lead you to think I thought 
you were stupid? 

EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC: DOCTRINE/17 



The following three lectures were given at Darmstadt (Germany) in 
September 1958. The third one, with certain revisions, is a lecture given 
earlier that year at Rutgers University in New Jersey, an excerpt from which 
was published in the Village Voice, New York City, in April 1958. 



COMPOSITION AS PROCESS 
I. Changes 



This is a lec- 
ture on changes 
that have taken 
place in my com- 
position means, 
with particu- 
lar reference 
to what, a dec- 
ade ago, I 

termed "structure" and 
"method." By "struc- 
ture" was meant the 
division of 
a whole into 
parts; by "method," 
the note-to-note 
procedure. Both 
structure and meth- 
od ( and also 

18/SILENCE 



Having been asked by Dr. Wolfgang Steinecke, Director of the Internationale 
Ferienkurse fiir Neue Musik at Darmstadt, to discuss in particular my 
Music of Changes, I decided to make a lecture within the time length of the 
Music of Changes (each line of the text whether speech or silence requiring 
one second for its performance), so that whenever I would stop speaking, the 
corresponding part of the Music of Changes itself would be played. The music 
is not superimposed on the speech but is heard only in the interruptions of 
the speech— which, like the lengths of the paragraphs themselves, were the 
result of chance operations. 



"material"— 
the sounds and si- 
lences of a 
composition) 



were, it seemed to 
me then, the prop- 
er concern of 
the mind ( as op- 
posed to the heart) 
( one's ideas 
of order as 
opposed to one's 
spontaneous 
actions ) ; whereas 
the two last 



of these, namely 
method and ma- 
terial, to- 
gether with form 
(the morpholo- 
gy of a con- 
tinuity) 
were equally 
the proper con- 
cern of the heart. 
Composition, 
then, I viewed, ten 
years ago, as 
an activity integrat- 
ing the oppo- 
sites, the ration- 
al and the ir- 
rational, bring- 
ing about, i- 



deally, a 
freely moving 
continui- 
ty within a 
strict division 
of parts, the sounds, 
their combina- 
tion and succes- 
sion being ei- 
ther logical- 
ly related 
or arbitrar- 
ily chosen. 
fThe strict divi- 
sion of parts, the 
structure, was a 
function of the 
duration as- 
pect of sound, since, 



of all the as- 
pects of sound in- 
cluding frequen- 
cy, amplitude, 
and timbre, dur- 
ation, alone, 
was also a 
characteris- 
tic of silence. 
The structure, then, 
was a divi- 
sion of actu- 
al time by con- 
ventional met- 
rical means, me- 
ter taken as 
simply the meas- 
urement of quan- 
tity, fin the 
case of the So- 
natas and In- 
terludes (which I 
finished in nine- 
teen forty-eight ) , 
only structure 
was organized, 
quite roughly for 
the work as a 
whole, exactly, 
however, with- 
in each single 
piece. The method 
was that of con- 
sidered impro- 
visation (main- 
ly at the pi- 



ano, though i- 
deas came to 
me at some mo- 
ments away from 
the instrument. 



The materi- 
als, the pia- 
no prepara- 
tions, were chosen 
as one chooses 
shells while walking 



along a beach. 
The form was as 
natural as 
my taste permit- 
ted: so that where, 
as in all of 
the Sonatas 
and two of the 
Interludes, parts 
were to be re- 
peated, the for- 
mal concern was 
to make the prog- 
ress from the end 
of a section 
to its begin- 
ning seem inev- 
itable. TfThe 
structure of one 
of the Sona- 
tas, the fourth, was 
one hundred meas- 
ures of two-two 
time, divided 
into ten u- 
nits of ten meas- 



ures each. These u- 
nits were combined 
in the propor- 
tion three, three, two, 
two, to give the 
piece large parts, and 
they were subdi- 
vided in the 
same proportion 
to give small parts 
to each unit. 
In contrast to 
a structure based 
on the frequen- 
cy aspect of 
sound, tonali- 
ty, that is, this 
rhythmic structure 
was as hospi- 
table to non- 
musical sounds, 
noises, as it 
was to those of 
the convention- 
al scales and in- 
struments. For noth- 
ing about the 
structure was de- 
termined by the 
materials 
which were to oc- 
cur in it; it 
was conceived, in 
fact, so that it 
could be as well 
expressed by the 



COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/19 



absence of these 
materials 
as by their pres- 
ence, flln terms 
of the oppo- 
sition of free- 
dom and law, a 
piece written ten 
years before the 
Sonatas and 
Interludes, Con- 
struction in Met- 
al, presents the 
same relation- 
ship, but reversed: 
structure, method, 
and materi- 
als were all of 
them subjected 
to organi- 
zation. The mor- 
phology of 
the continu- 
ity, form, a- 
lone was free. Draw- 
ing a straight line 
between this sit- 
uation and 
that presented 



by the later 
work, the deduc- 
tion might be made 
that there is a 
tendency in 
my composi- 
tion means away 
from ideas 
of order towards 
no ideas 
of order. And 
though when exam- 
ined the histo- 
ry would probab- 
ly not read as 
a straight line, re- 
cent works, begin- 
ning with the Mu- 
sic of Changes, 
support the ac- 
curacy of 



this deduction. 
flFor, in the Mu- 
sic of Changes, 
the note-to-note 
procedure^ the 
method, is the 
function of chance 
operations. 
And the structure, 
though planned precise- 
ly as those of 
the Sonatas 
and Interludes, 
and more thorough- 
ly since it en- 
compassed the whole 
span of the com- 
position, was 
only a se- 
ries of numbers, 
three, five, six and 
three quarters, six 
and three quarters, 
five, three and one 
eighth, which became, 
on the one hand, 
the number of 
units within 
each section, and, 
on the other, 
number of meas- 
ures of four-four 
within each u- 
nit. At each small 
structural di- 
vision in the 



Music of Chan- 
ges, at the be- 
ginning, for ex- 
ample, and a- 

gain at the fourth 
and ninth measures 
and so on, chance 
operations 
determined sta- 
bility or 

change of tempo. 
Thus, by intro- 
ducing the ac- 
tion of method 
into the bod- 
y of the struc- 
ture, and these two 
opposed in terms 
of order and 
freedom, that struc- 
ture became in- 
determinate: 
it was not pos- 
sible to know the 
total time-length 
of the piece un- 
til the final 
chance opera- 
tion, the last toss 
of coins af- 
fecting the rate 
of tempo, had 
been made. Being 



20/SILENCE 






indetermi- 
nate, though still pres- 
ent, it became 
apparent that 
structure was not 
necessary, 
even though it had 
certain uses. 
flOne of these u- 
ses was the de- 
termination 
of density, 
the determi- 
nation, that is, 
of how many 
of the poten- 
tially present 
eight lines, each com- 
posed of sounds and 
silences, were 
actually 
to be present 
within a giv- 
en small structur- 
al part, f Anoth- 
er use of the 
structure affect- 
ed the charts of 
sounds and silen- 
ces, amplitudes, 
durations, po- 
tentially ac- 
tive in the con- 
tinuity. 

These twenty-four 
charts, eight for sounds 



and silences, 
eight for ampli- 
tudes, eight for du- 
rations, were, through- 
out the course of 
a single struc- 
tural unit, half 
of them mobile 
and half of them 
immobile. Mo- 
bile meant that once 
any of the 
elements in 
a chart was used 



it disappeared 
to be replaced 
by a new one. 
Immobile meant 
that though an el- 
ement in a 
chart had been used, 
it remained to 
be used again. 
At each unit 
structural point, 
a chance oper- 
ation deter- 
mined which of the 
charts, numbers one, 
three, five, and sev- 
en or numbers 



two, four, six, and 
eight, were mobile 
and which of the 
charts were immo- 
bile—not changing. 



fJThe structure, there- 
fore, was in these 
respects useful. 
Furthermore, it 
determined the 
beginning and 



COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/21 



ending of the 
composition- 
al process. But 
this process, had 
it in the end 
brought about a 
division of 

parts the time-lengths 
of which were pro- 
portional to 
the origi- 
nal series of 
numbers, would have 
been extraordi- 
nary. And the 
presence of the 
mind as a rul- 
ing factor, e- 
ven by such an 
extraordina- 
ry eventu- 
ality, would 
not have been es- 
tablished. For what 
happened came a- 
bout only through 
the tossing of 
coins, fit be- 
came clear, therefore, 
I repeat, that 
structure was not 
necessary. 
And, in Music 
for Piano, 
and subsequent 
pieces, indeed, 

22/SILENCE 



structure is no 
longer a part 
of the compo- 
sition means. The 
view taken is 
not of an ac- 
tivity the 
purpose of which 
is to inte- 
grate the oppo- 
sites, but rather 
of an activ- 
ity charac- 
terized by 
process and es- 
sentially 



purposeless. The 



mind, though stripped 
of its right to 
control, is still 
present. What does 
it do, having 
nothing to do? 
And what happens 
to a piece of 
music when it 
is purposeless- 
ly made? fWhat hap- 
pens, for instance, 
to silence? That 
is, how does the 
mind's perception 
of it change? For- 
merly, silence 
was the time lapse 
between sounds, use- 
ful towards a va- 
riety of 

ends, among them 
that of tasteful 
arrangement, where 
by separat- 
ing two sounds or 
two groups of sounds 
their differen- 
ces or rela- 
tionships might re- 
ceive emphasis; 
or that of ex- 
pressivity, 
where silences 
in a musi- 
cal discourse might 



provide pause or 
punctuation; 
or again, that 
of architec- 
ture, where the in- 
troduction or 
interruption 
of silence might 
give defini- 
tion either to 
a predeter- 
mined structure or 
to an organ- 
ically de- 
veloping one. 
Where none of these 
or other goals 
is present, si- 
lence becomes some- 
thing else— not si- 
lence at all, but 
sounds, the ambi- 
ent sounds. The na- 
ture of these is 
unpredicta- 
ble and changing. 
These sounds ( which are 



called silence on- 
ly because they 
do not form part 
of a musi- 
cal intention) 
may be depen- 
ded upon to 
exist. The world 
teems with them, and 
is, in fact, at 
no point free of 
them. He who has 
entered an an- 
echoic cham- 
ber, a room made 
as silent as 
technologi- 
cally possible, 
has heard there two 
sounds, one high, one 
low— the high the 
listener's ner- 
vous system in 
operation, 
the low his blood 
in circula- 
tion. There are, dem- 
onstrably, sounds 
to be heard and 
forever, giv- 
en ears to hear. 
Where these ears are 
in connection 



with a mind that 
has nothing to 
do, that mind is 
free to enter 
into the act 
of listening, 
hearing each sound 
just as it is, 
not as a phe- 
nomenon more 
or less approx- 
imating a 
preconception. 



ffWhat's the histo- 
ry of the chan- 
ges in my com- 
position means 
with particu- 
lar reference 
to sounds? I had 
in mind when I 
chose the sounds for 
Construction in 
Metal that they 
should be sixteen 
for each player. 
The number six- 
teen was also 
that of the num- 
ber of measures 



of four-four in 
each unit of 
the rhythmic struc- 
ture. In the case 
of the structure 
this number was 
divided four, 
three, two, three, four; 
in the case of 
the materi- 
als the gamuts 
of sixteen sounds 
were divided 
into four groups 
of four. The plan, 
as preconceived, 
was to use four 
of the sounds in 
the first sixteen 
measures, intro- 
ducing in each 
succeeding struc- 
tural unit 
four more until 
the exposi- 
tion involving 
all sixteen and 
lasting through the 
first four units 
was completed. 
The subsequent 
parts, three, two, three, 
four, were composed 



COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/23 



as develop- 
ment of this in- 
itial situ- 
ation. In ac- 
tuality, 
this simple plan 



was not real- 
ized, although it 
was only re- 
cently that I 
became fully 
aware that it 
was not. I had 
known all along 
that one of the 
players used three 
Japanese tem- 
ple gongs rather 
than four, but the 
fact that only 
three of these rel- 
atively rare 
instruments were 
then availa- 
ble to me, to- 
gether with the 
attachment I 
felt towards their sound, 
had convinced me 
of the rightness 
of this change in 
number. More se- 
rious, however, 
it seems to 
me now, was the 
effect of beat- 
ers: playing cow- 
bells first with rub- 
ber and then with 



metal multi- 
plied by two the 
number of sounds 
actually 
used. Sirenlike 
piano trills 
which sound as one 
were counted as 
two. Various 
other devi- 
ations from the 
original 

plan could be dis- 
covered on an- 
alysis: for 
instance, the ad- 
dition of met- 
al thundersheets 
for background noise 
bringing the num- 
ber sixteen, for 
those players who 
enjoyed it 



24/SILENCE 



to seventeen. 
One might conclude 
that in compos- 
ing Construction 
in Metal the 
organiza- 
tion of sounds was 
imperfectly 
realized. Or 
he might conclude 
that the compos- 
er had not ac- 
tually lis- 
tened to the sounds 
he used, p have 
already com- 
pared the selec- 
tion of the sounds 



for the Sona- 
tas and Inter- 
ludes to a se- 
lection of shells 
while walking a- 
long a beach. They 
are therefore a 
collection ex- 
hibiting taste. 
Their number was 
increased by use 
of the una 
corda, this ped- 
al bringing a- 
bout altera- 
tions of timbre and 
frequency for 
many of the 
prepared keys. In 
terms of pitch, how- 
ever, there is 
no change from the 
sounds of the Con- 
struction. In both 
cases a stat- 
ic gamut of 
sounds is present- 
ed, no two oc- 
taves repeating 
relations. How- 
ever, one could 
hear interest- 
ing differen- 
ces between cer- 
tain of these sounds. 
On depressing 



a key, sometimes 
a single fre- 
quency was heard. 
In other cas- 
es depressing 
a key produced 
an interval; 
in still others 
an aggregate 
of pitches and 
timbres. Noticing 
the nature of 
this gamut led 
to selecting 
a comparable 
one for the 
Spring Quartet: the 



inclusion there 
of rigidly 

scored convention- 
al harmonies 
is a matter 
of taste, from which 
a conscious con- 
trol was absent. 
Before writing 
the Music of 
Changes, two piec- 



es were written 
which also used 
gamuts of sounds: 
single sounds, doub- 
le sounds and oth- 
ers more numer- 
ous, some to be 
played simultan- 
eously, oth- 
ers successive- 
ly in time. These 
pieces were Six- 
teen Dances and 
Concerto for 
Prepared Pia- 
no and Chamber 
Orchestra. The 
elements of 
the gamuts were 
arranged unsys- 
tematically 
in charts and 
the method of 
composition 
involved moves on 
these charts anal- 
agous to those 
used in construct- 
ing a magic 
square. Charts were al- 
so used for the 
Music of Chang- 
es, but in con- 
trast to the meth- 
od which involved 
chance opera- 



COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/25 



tions, these charts were 
subjected to 
a rational 
control: of the 
sixty-four el- 
ements in a 

square chart eight times 
eight (made in this 
way in order 
to interpret 
as sounds the co- 
in oracle 
of the Chinese 
Book of Changes) 
thirty-two were 
sounds, thirty-two 
silences. The 
thirty-two sounds 
were arranged in 
two squares one a- 
bove the other, 
each four by four. 
Whether the charts 
were mobile or 
immobile, all 
twelve tones were pres- 
ent in any 
four elements 
of a given 
chart, whether a 
line of the chart 
was read hori- 
zontally or 
vertically. 
Once this dodec- 
aphonic re- 



quirement was sat- 
isfied, noises 
and repeti- 
tions of tones were 
used with freedom. 



One may conclude 
from this that in 
the Music of 
Changes the ef- 
fect of the 
chance operations 
on the structure 



(making very 
apparent its 
anachronis- 
tic character) 



was balanced by 
a control of 
the materials. 
Charts remain in 
the Imagi- 
nary Landscape 
Number TV, and 
in the Williams 



Mix, but, due to 
the radios 
of the first piece 
and the librar- 
y of record- 
ed sounds of the 
second, and for 
no other rea- 
son, no twelve-tone 
control was used. 
The question "How 
do we need to 
cautiously pro- 
ceed in dual- 
istic terms?" was 
not consciously 
answered until 
the Music for 
Piano. In 

that piece notes were 
determined by 
imperfections 
in the paper 
upon which the 
music was writ- 
ten. The number 
of imperfec- 
tions was deter- 
mined by chance. 



26/SILENCE 



The origi- 
nal notation 
is in ink, and 
the actual 
steps that were tak- 
en in compo- 
sition have been 
described in an 
article in 

Die Reihe. flThough 
in the Music 
for Piano 
I have affirmed 
the absence of 
the mind as a 
ruling agent 
from the structure 
and method of the 
composing 
means, its presence 
with regard to 
material 
is made clear on 
examining 

the sounds themselves: 
they are only 
single tones of 
the convention- 
al grand pia- 



no, played at the 
keyboard, plucked or 
muted on the 
strings, together 
with noises in- 
side or outside 
the piano 
construction. The 
limited na- 
ture of this u- 
niverse of pos- 
sibilities 

makes the events 
themselves compa- 
rable to the 
first attempts at 
speech of a child 
or the fumblings 
about of a 

blind man. The mind 
reappears as 
the agent which 
established the 
boundaries with- 
in which this small 
play took place. Some- 
thing more far-reach- 
ing is neces- 
sary: a com- 
posing of sounds 
within a u- 
niverse predi- 
cated upon the 
sounds themselves 



COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/27 



rather than up- 
on the mind which 
can envisage 
their coming in- 
to being, f Sounds, 
as we know, have 
frequency, am- 
plitude, dura- 
tion, timbre, and in 
a composi- 
tion, an order 
of succession. 
Five lines repre- 
senting these five 
characteris- 
tics may be drawn 



in India ink 
upon trans- 
parent plastic 
squares. Upon an- 
other such square 
a point may be 
inscribed. Placing 
the square with the 
lines over the 
square with the point, 
a determi- 
nation may be 
made as to the 
physical na- 
ture of a sound 



and its place with- 
in a deter- 
mined program sim- 
ply by dropping 
a perpendi- 
cular from the 
point to the line 
and measuring 
according to 
any method 
of measurement. 
Larger points will 
have the meaning 
of intervals 
and largest points 
that of aggre- 
gates. In order 
to make the sev- 
eral measure- 
ments necessar- 
y for inter- 
vals and aggre- 
gates, further squares 
having five lines 
are made and the 
meaning of an- 
y of the lines 
is left unde- 
termined, so that 
a given one 
refers to an- 
y of the five 
characteris- 
tics. These squares are 
square so that they 
may be used in 



any posi- 
tion with respect 
to one anoth- 
er. This describes 
the situa- 
tion obtaining 



in a recent 
composition, 
Variations, 
the composing 
means itself one 
of the eighty- 
four occurring 
in the part for 
piano of 
Concert for Pi- 



ano and Or- 
chestra. In this 
situation, 
the universe 
within which the 
action is to 
take place is not 
preconceived. Fur- 
thermore, as we 
know, sounds are e- 
vents in a field 
of possibil- 
ities, not on- 
ly at the dis- 
crete points conven- 
tions have favored. 
The notation 
of Varia- 
tions departs from 
music and im- 
itates the phys- 
ical real- 
ity, pt is 
now my inten- 
tion to relate 
the history 
of the changes 
with regard to 
duration of 
sounds in my com- 
posing means. Be- 
yond the fact that 
in the Construc- 
tion in Metal 
there was a con- 
trol of dura- 



28/SILENCE 



tion patterns par- 
allel to that 
of the number 
of sounds chosen, 
nothing uncon- 
ventional took 
place. Quantities 
related through 
multiplica- 
tion by two or 
addition of 
one-half togeth- 
er with grupet- 
tos of three, five, 
seven, and nine 
were present. The 
same holds for the 
Sonatas and 
Interludes, though 
no rhythmic pat- 
terns were ration- 
ally controlled. 
In the String Quar- 
tet the rhythmic 
interest drops, 
movements being 
nearly charac- 
terized by the 
predominance 
of a single 
quantity. Not 
until the Mu- 
sic of Changes 
do the quantities 
and their no- 
tation change. They 



are there measured 
in space, a quar- 
ter note equal- 
ling two and one- 
half centime- 
ters. This made pos- 
sible the no- 
tation of a 
fraction, for ex- 
ample one-third 
of an eighth, with- 
out the neces- 
sity of no- 
tating the re- 
mainder of the 
fraction, the re- 
maining two-thirds, 
following the 
same example. 
This possibil- 
ity is di- 
rectly anal- 
ogous to the 
practice of cut- 
ting magnetic 
tape. In the du- 
ration charts of 
the Music of 
Changes there were 
sixty-four el- 
ements, all of 
them durations 
since they were both 



applicable 



to sound and si- 
lence ( each of which 
had thirty-two 
elements ) . These 
were segmented 
( for example 
one-half plus one- 
third of an eighth 
plus six-sevenths 
of a quarter) 
and were expres- 
sible wholly 
or in part. This 
segmentation 
was a practi- 
cal measure tak- 
en to avoid 
the writing of 
an impossi- 
ble situa- 
tion which might a- 
rise during a 
high density 
structural a- 
rea due to 
the chance oper- 



ations. fThe same 
segmentation 
of durations 
took place in the 
Williams Mix, since 
a maximum 
of eight machines 
and loudspeakers 
had been pre-es- 
tablished. When the 
density rose 
from one to six- 
teen, it was of- 
ten necessar- 
y to express 
durations by 
their smallest parts, 
there being no 
room left on the 
tape for the larg- 
er segments. flEx- 
act measurement 
and notation 



of durations 
is in real- 
ity mental: 



rmaginar- 
y exacti- 
tude. In the case 
of tape, many 



COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/29 



circumstances 
enter which ev- 
er so slightly, 
but nonetheless 
profoundly, al- 
ter the inten- 
tion ( even though 
it was only 
the carrying out 
of an action 
indicated 
by chance oper- 
ations ) . Some of 
these circumstan- 
ces are the ef- 
fects of weather 
upon the ma- 
terial; others 
follow from hu- 
man frailty— 
the inabil- 
ity to read 
a ruler and 
make a cut at 
a given point- 
still others are 
due to mechan- 
ical causes, 
eight machines not 
running at pre- 
cisely the same 
speed. flGiven these 
circumstances, 
one might be in- 
spired towards greater 
heights of dura- 

30/SILENCE 



tion control or 



he might renounce 
the need to con- 
trol durations 
at all. In Mu- 
sic for Pia- 
no I took the 
latter course. Struc- 
ture no longer 
being present, 
that piece took place 
in any length 
of time whatso- 
ever, accord- 
ing to the ex- 
igencies of 
an occasion. 
The duration 
of single sounds 
was therefore al- 
so left inde- 
terminate. The 
notation took 
the form of whole 
notes in space, the 
space suggesting 
but not measur- 
ing time. Noises 
were crotchets with- 
out stems. flWhen a 



performance of 
Music for Pi- 
ano involves 
more than one pi- 
anist, as it 
may from two to 
twenty, the suc- 
cession of sounds 
becomes complete- 
ly indeter- 
minate. Though each 
page is read from 
left to right con- 
ventionally, 
the combina- 
tion is unpre- 
dictable in 
terms of succes- 
sion. fThe histo- 
ry of changes 
with reference 
to timbre is short. 
In the Construc- 
tion in Metal 
four sounds had a 
single timbre; while 
the prepared pi- 
ano of the 
Sonatas and 
Interludes pro- 
vided by its 
nature a klang- 
farbenmelo- 
die. This inter- 
est in changing 
timbres is evi- 



dent in the String 
Quartet. But this 
matter of tim- 
bre, which is large- 
ly a question 
of taste, was first 
radically 

changed for me in 
the Imagi- 
nary Landscape 
Number IV. I 
had, I confess, 
never enjoyed 
the sound of ra- 
dios. This piece 
opened my ears 

to them, and was 
essentially 
a giving up 
of personal 
taste about timbre. 
I now frequent- 
ly compose with 
the radio 

turned on, and my 
friends are no long- 
er embarrassed 
when visiting 
them I inter- 
rupt their recep- 
tions. Several 
other kinds of 
sound have been dis- 
tasteful to me: 
the works of Bee- 



thoven, Ital- 
ian bel can- 
to, jazz, and the 
vibraphone. I 
used Beethoven 
in the Williams 
Mix, jazz in the 
Imaginar- 
y Landscape Num- 
ber V, bel can- 
to in the re- 
cent part for voice 
in the Concert 
for Piano 
and Orchestra. 
It remains for 
me to come to 
terms with the vib- 
raphone. In oth- 
er words, I find 
my taste for timbre 



lacking in ne- 
cessity, and 
I discover 
that in the pro- 
portion I give 
it up, I find 
I hear more and 
more accurate- 



ly. Beethoven 
now is a sur- 
prise, as accept- 
able to the 
ear as a cow- 
bell. What are the 
orchestral timbres 
of the Concert 
for Piano 
and Orchestra? 
It is impos- 
sible to pre- 
dict, but this may 
be said: they in- 
vite the timbres of 
jazz, which more than 
serious music 
has explored the 
possibili- 
ties of instru- 
ments. flWith tape and 
music-synthe- 
sizers, action 
with the over- 
tone structure of 
sounds can be less 
a matter of 
taste and more thor- 
oughly an ac- 
tion in a field 
of possibil- 
ities. The no- 
tation I have 
described for Var- 
iations deals 
with it as such. 



f[The early works 
have beginnings, 
middles, and end- 
ings. The later 
ones do not. They 
begin any- 
where, last any 
length of time, and 
involve more or 
fewer instru- 
ments and players. 
They are therefore 
not preconceived 
objects, and to 
approach them as 
objects is to 
utterly miss 



occasions for 
experience, 
and this exper- 
ience is not 
only received 
by the ears but 
by the eyes too. 
An ear alone 
is not a be- 
ing. I have no- 
ticed listening 
to a record 



that my attention 
moves to a 
moving object 
or a play of 
light, and at a 
rehearsal of 
the Williams Mix 
last May when all 
eight machines were 
in opera- 
tion the atten- 
tion of those pres- 
ent was engaged 
by a sixty- 
year-old pian- 
o tuner who 
was busy tun- 
ing the instru- 
ment for the eve- 
ning's concert. It 
becomes evi- 
the point. They are dent that music 

COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/3 



itself is an 
ideal sit- 
uation, not 
a real one. The 
mind may be used 
either to ig- 
nore ambient 
sounds, pitches oth- 
er than the eight- 
y-eight, dura- 
tions which are not 
counted, timbres which 
are unmusi- 
cal or distaste- 
ful, and in gen- 
eral to con- 
trol and under- 
stand an avail- 
able exper- 
ience. Or the 
mind may give up 
its desire to 
improve on cre- 
ation and func- 
tion as a faith- 
ful receiver 
of experi- 
ence. P have not 
yet told any 
stories and yet 
when I give a 
talk I gener- 
ally do. The 
subject certain- 
ly suggests my 
telling something 

32/SILENCE 



irrelevant 



but my inclin- 
ation is to 
tell something apt. 
That reminds me: 
Several years 
ago I was 
present at a 
lecture given 
by Dr. Dai- 
setz Teitaro 
Suzuki. He 
spoke quietly 
when he spoke. Some- 
times, as I was 
telling a friend 
yesterday eve- 
ning, an airplane 



would pass over- 
head. The lecture 
was at Colum- 
bia Uni- 
versity and 
the campus is 
directly in 
line with the de- 
parture from La 
Guardia of 
planes bound for the 
west. When the wea- 
ther was good, the 
windows were o- 
pen: a plane 
passing above drowned 
out Dr. Dai- 
setz Teitaro 
Suzuki. Nev- 
ertheless, he 
never raised his 
voice, never paused, 
and never in- 
formed his listen- 
ers of what they 
missed of the lec- 
ture, and no one 
ever asked him 
what he had said 
while the airplanes 
passed above. Any- 



way, he was 
explaining one 
day the meaning 
of a Chinese 
character— Yu, 
I believe it 
was— spending the 
whole time explain- 
ing it and yet 
its meaning as 
close as he could 
get to it in 
English was "un- 
explainable." 
Finally he 

laughed and then said, 
"Isn't it strange 
that having come 
all the way from 
Japan I spend 
my time explain- 
ing to you that 
which is not to 
be explained?" f That 
was not the stor- 
y I was go- 
ing to tell when 
I first thought I 
would tell one, but 
it reminds me 
of another. 



Years ago when 
I was study- 
ing with Arnold 
Schoenberg someone 
asked him to ex- 
plain his technique 
of twelve-tone com- 
position. His 
reply was im- 
mediate: "That 
is none of your 
business." f Now 
I remember 
the story I 
was going to 
tell when I first 
got the ide- 
a to tell one. 
I hope I can 
tell it well. Sev- 
eral men, three 
as a matter of 
fact, were out 
walking one day, 
and as they were 
walking along 
and talking one 
of them noticed 
another man 
standing on a 
hill ahead of 
them. He turned to 
his friends and said, 
"Why do you think 
that man is stand- 
ing up there on 



that hill?" One said, 
"He must be up 
there because it's 
cooler there and 
he's enjoying 
the breeze." He turned 
to another 
and repeated 
his question, "Why 
do you think that 
man's standing up 
there on that hill?" 
The second said, 
"Since the hill is 
elevated 
above the rest 
of the land, he 
must be up there 
in order to 
see something in 
the distance." And 
the third said, "He 
must have lost his 
friend and that is 
why he is stand- 
ing there alone 
on that hill." Af- 
ter some time walk- 
ing along, the 
men came up the 
hill and the one 
who had been stand- 
ing there was still 
there: standing there. 



They asked him to 
say which one was 
right concerning 
his reason for 
standing where he 
was standing. fl"What 
reasons do you 
have for my stand- 
ing here?" he asked. 
"We have three," they 
answered. "First, you 
are standing up 
here because it's 
cooler here and 
you are enjoy- 
ing the breeze. Second, 
since the hill 
is eleva- 
ted above the 
rest of the land, 
you are up here 
in order to 

see something in 
the distance. Third, 
you have lost your 
friend and that is 
why you are stand- 
ing here alone 
on this hill. We 
have walked this way; 
we never meant 
to climb this hill; 
now we want an 



COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/33 



answer: Which one 
of us is right?" 
f The man answered, 
"I just stand." flWhen 
I was studying 
with Schoenberg 
one day as he was 
writing some 
counterpoint to 
show the way to 
do it, he used 
an eraser. 
And then while he 
was doing this 



he said, "This end 
of the pencil 
is just as im- 
portant as the 
other end." I 
have several 
times in the course 
of this lecture 
mentioned ink. Com- 
posing, if it 
is writing notes, 
is then actu- 

34/SILENCE 



ally writing, 
and the less one 
thinks it's tliinking 
the more it be- 
comes what it is: 
writing. Could mu- 
sic be composed 
( I do not mean 
improvised) not 
writing it in 
pencil or ink? 



The answer is 
no doubt Yes and 
the changes in 
writing are pro- 
phetic. The So- 
natas and In- 
terludes were com- 
posed by playing 
the piano, 
listening to 
differences, 
making a choice, 
roughly writing 
it in pencil; 
later this sketch 



was copied, but 
again in pen- 
cil. Finally 
an ink manuscript 
was made care- 
fully. The Mu- 
sic of Changes 
was composed in 
almost the same 
way. With one change: 
the origi- 
nal pencil sketch 
was made exact- 
ly, an era- 
ser used whenev- 
er necessar- 
y, elimin- 
ating the need 
for a neat pen- 
cil copy. In 
the case of the 
Imaginar- 
y Landscape Num- 
ber IV, the first 
step of playing 
the instrument 
was elimin- 
ated. The oth- 
ers kept. Music 
for Piano 
was written di- 
rectly in ink. 



The excessively small type in the following pages is an attempt to emphasize 
the intentionally pontifical character of this lecture. 



II. Indeterminacy 

This is a lecture on composition which is indeterminate with respect to its performance. The Klavierstiick XI by 
Karlheinz Stockhausen is an example. The Art of the Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach is an example. In The Art 
of the Fugue, structure, which is the division of the whole into parts; method, which is the note-to-note procedure; 
and form, which is the expressive content, the morphology of the continuity, are all determined. Frequency and 
duration characteristics of the material are also determined. Timbre and amplitude characteristics of the material, 
by not being given, are indeterminate. This mdeterminacy brings about the possibility of a unique overtone struc- 
ture and decibel range for each performance of The Art of the Fugue. In the case of the Klavierstiick XI, all the 
characteristics of the material are determined, and so too is the note-to-note procedure, the method. The division 
of the whole into parts, the structure, is determinate. The sequence of these parts, however, is indeterminate, 
bringing about the possibility of a unique form, which is to say a unique morphology of the continuity, a unique 
expressive content, for each performance. 

The function of the performer, in the case of The Art of the Fugue, is comparable to that of someone filling 
in color where outlines are given. He may do this in an organized way which may be subjected successfully to 
analysis. (Transcriptions by Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern give examples pertinent to this century.) Or 
he may perform his function of colorist in a way which is not consciously organized ( and therefore not subject to 
analysis)— either arbitrarily, feeling his way, following the dictates of his ego; or more or less unknowingly, by 
going inwards with reference to the structure of his mind to a point in dreams, following, as in automatic writing, 
the dictates of his subconscious mind; or to a point in the collective unconscious of Jungian psychoanalysis, fol- 
lowing the inclinations of the species and doing something of more or less universal interest to human beings; or 
to the "deep sleep" of Indian mental practice— the Ground of Meister Eckhart— identifying there with no matter 
what eventuality. Or he may perform his function of colorist arbitrarily, by going outwards with reference to the 
structure of his mind to the point of sense perception, following his taste; or more or less unknowingly by employ- 
ing some operation exterior to his mind: tables of random numbers, following the scientific interest in probability; 
or chance operations, identifying there with no matter what eventuality 

The function of the performer in the case of the Klavierstiick XI is not that of a colorist but that of giving 
form, providing, that is to say, the morphology of the continuity, the expressive content. This may not be done in 
an organized way: for form unvitalized by spontaneity brings about the death of all the other elements of the work. 
Examples are provided by academic studies which copy models with respect to all their compositional elements: 
structure, method, material, and form. On the other hand, no matter how rigorously controlled or conventional the 
structure, method, and materials of a composition are, that composition will come to life if the form is not con- 
trolled but free and original. One may cite as examples the sonnets of Shakespeare and the haikus of Basho. How 
then in the case of the Klavierstiick XI may the performer fulfill his function of giving form to the music? He 
must perform his function of giving form to the music in a way which is not consciously organized ( and therefore 
not subject to analysis), either arbitrarily, feeling his way, following the dictates of his ego, or more or less 
unknowingly, by going inwards with reference to the structure of his mind to a point in dreams, following, as in 
automatic writing, the dictates of his subconscious mind; or to a point in the collective unconscious of Jungian 
psychoanalysis, following the inclinations of the species and doing something of more or less universal interest to 
human beings; or to the "deep sleep" of Indian mental practice— the Ground of Meister Eckhart— identifying there 
with no matter what eventuality. Or he may perform his function of giving form to the music arbitrarily, by going 

COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/35 



outwards with reference to the structure of his mind to the point of sense perception, following his taste; or more 
or less unknowingly by employing some operation exterior to his mind: tables of random numbers, following the 
scientific interest in probability; or chance operations, identifying there with no matter what eventuality. 

However, due to the presence in the Klavierstuck XI of the two most essentially conventional aspects of 
European music— that is to say, the twelve tones of the octave (the frequency characteristic of the material) and 
regularity of beat (affecting the element of method in the composing means), the performer— in those instances 
where his procedure follows any dictates at all (his feelings, his automatism, his sense of universality, his taste)— 
will be led to give the form aspects essentially conventional to European music. These instances will predominate 
over those which are unknowing where the performer wishes to act in a way consistent with the composition as 
written. The form aspects essentially conventional to European music are, for instance, the presentation of a 
whole as an object in time having a beginning, a middle, and an ending, progressive rather than static in character, 
which is to say possessed of a climax or climaxes and in contrast a point or points of rest. 

The indeterminate aspects of the composition of the Klavierstuck XI do not remove the work in its per- 
formance from the body of European musical conventions. And yet the purpose of indeterminacy would seem to 
be to bring about an unforseen situation. In the case of Klavierstuck XI, the use of indeterminacy is in this sense 
unnecessary since it is ineffective. The work might as well have been written in all of its aspects determinately. 
It would lose, in this case, its single unconventional aspect: that of being printed on an unusually large sheet of 
paper which, together with an attachment that may be snapped on at several points enabling one to stretch it out 
flat and place it on the music rack of a piano, is put in a cardboard tube suitable for safekeeping or distribution 
through die mails. 

This is a lecture on composition which is indeterminate with respect to its performance. The Intersection 3 by 
Morton Feldman is an example. The Music of Changes is not an example. -In the Music of Changes, structure, 
which is the division of the whole into parts; method, which is the note-to-note procedure; form, which is the 
expressive content, the morphology of the continuity; and materials, the sounds and silences of the composition, are 
all determined. Though no two performances of the Music of Changes will be identical ( each act is virgin, even 
the repeated one, to refer to Rene Char's thought), two performances will resemble one another closely. Though 
chance operations brought about the determinations of the composition, these operations are not available in its 
performance. The function of the performer in the case of the Music of Changes is that of a contractor who, fol- 
lowing an architect's blueprint, constructs a building. That the Music of Changes was composed by means of 
chance operations identifies the composer with no matter what eventuality. But that its notation is in all respects 
determinate does not permit the performer any such identification: his work is specifically laid out before him. He 
is therefore not able to perform from his own center but must identify himself insofar as possible with the center of 
the work as written. The Music of Changes is an object more inhuman than human, since chance operations 
brought it into being. The fact that these things that constitute it, though only sounds, have come together to 
control a human being, the performer, gives the work the alarming aspect of a Frankenstein monster. This situation 
is of course characteristic of Western music, the masterpieces of which are its most frightening examples, which 
when concerned with humane communication only move over from Frankenstein monster to Dictator. 

In the case of the Intersection 3 by Morton Feldman, structure may be viewed as determinate or as indeter- 
minate; method is definitely indeterminate. Frequency and duration characteristics of the material are determi- 
nate only within broad limits ( they are with respect to narrow limits indeterminate ) ; the timbre characteristic of the 
material, being given by the instrument designated, the piano, is determinate; the amplitude characteristic of 
the material is indeterminate. Form conceived in terms of a continuity of various weights— that is, a continuity of 
numbers of sounds, the sounds themselves particularized only with respect to broad range limits ( high, middle, and 
low ) —is determinate, particularly so due to the composer's having specified boxes as time units. Though one might 
equally describe it as indeterminate for other reasons. The term "boxes" arises from the composer's use of graph 
paper for the notation of his composition. The function of the box is comparable to that of a green light in metropolitan 
thoroughfare control. The performer is free to play the given number of sounds in the range indicated at any time 
during the duration of the box, just as when driving an automobile one may cross an intersection at any time during 
the green light. With the exception of method, which is wholly indeterminate, the compositional means are char- 
acterized by being in certain respects determinate, in others indeterminate, and an interpenetration of these opposites 
obtains which is more characteristic than either. The situation is therefore essentially non-dualistic; a multiplicity of 
centers in a state of non-obstruction and interpenetration. 

The function of the performer in the case of the Intersection 3 is that of a photographer who on obtaining a 
camera uses it to take a picture. The composition permits an infinite number of these, and, not being mechanically 
constructed, it will not wear out. It can only suffer disuse or loss. How is the performer to perform the Intersection 3? 
He may do this in an organized way which may be subjected successfully to analysis. Or he may perform his 
function of photographer in a way which is not consciously organized (and therefore not subject to analysis)— 
either arbitrarily, feeling his way, following the dictates of his ego; or more or less unknowingly, by going inwards 
with reference to the structure of his mind to a point in dreams, following, as in automatic writing, the dictates 
of his subconscious mind; or to a point in the collective unconsciousness of Jungian pyschoanalysis, following the 
inclinations of the species and doing something of more or less universal interest to human beings; or to the ' deep 

36/SILENCE 



sleep" of Indian mental practice— the Ground of Meister Eckhart— identifying there with no matter what even- 
tuality. Or he may perform his function of photographer arbitrarily, by going outwards with reference to the 
structure of his mind to the point of sense perception, following his taste; or more or less unknowingly by employ- 
ing some operation exterior to his mind: tables of random numbers, following the scientific interest in probability; 
or chance operations, identifying there with no matter what eventuality. 

One evening Morton Feldman said that when he composed he was dead; this recalls to me the statement of 
my father, an inventor, who says he does his best work when he is sound asleep. The two suggest the "deep sleep" 
of Indian mental practice. The ego no longer blocks action. A fluency obtains which is characteristic of nature. 
The seasons make the round of spring, summer, fall, and winter, interpreted in Indian thought as creation, preser- 
vation, destruction, and quiescence. Deep sleep is comparable to quiescence. Each spring brings no matter what 
eventuality. The performer then will act in any way. Whether he does so in an organized way or in any one of the 
not consciously organized ways cannot be answered until his action is a reality. The nature of the composition and 
the knowledge of the composer's own view of his action suggest, indeed, that the performer act sometimes con- 
sciously, sometimes not consciously and from the Ground of Meister Eckhart, identifying there with no matter 
what eventuality. 

This is a lecture on composition which is indeterminate with respect to its performance. Indices by Earle Brown 
is not an example. Where the performance involves a number of players, as it does in the case of Indices, the 
introduction of a score— that is, a fixed relation of the parts— removes the quality of indeterminacy from the per- 
formance. Though tables of random numbers (used in a way which introduces bias) brought about the determi- 
nations of the composition ( structure, method, materials, and form are in the case of Indices all thus determined ) , 
those tables are not available in its performance. The function of the conductor is that of a contractor, who, 
following an architect's blueprint, constructs a building. The function of the instrumentalists is that of workmen 
who simply do as they are bid. That the Indices by Earle Brown was composed by means of tables of random 
numbers ( used in a way which introduces bias ) identifies the composer with no matter what eventuality, since by 
the introduction of bias he has removed himself from an association with the scientific interest in probability. But 
that the notation of the parts is in all respects determinate, and that, moreover, a score provides a fixed relation of 
these parts, does not permit the conductor or the players any such identification. Their work is laid out before 
them. The conductor is not able to conduct from his own center but must identify himself insofar as possible with 
the center of the work as written. The instrumentalists are not able to perform from their several centers but are 
employed to identify themselves insofar as possible with the directives given by the conductor. They identify with 
the work itself, if at all, by one remove. From that point of view from which each thing and each being is seen 
as moving out from its own center, this situation of the subservience of several to the directives of one who is 
himself controlled, not by another but by the work of another, is intolerable. 

(In this connection it may be remarked that certain Indian traditional practices prohibit ensemble, limiting 
performance to the solo circumstance. This solo, in traditional Indian practice, is not a performance of something 
written by another but an improvisation by the performer himself within certain limitations of structure, method, 
and material. Though he himself by the morphology of the continuity brings the form into being, the expressive 
content does not reside in this compositional element alone, but by the conventions of Indian tradition resides also 
in all the other compositional elements. ) 

The intolerable situation described is, of course, not a peculiarity of Indices, but a characteristic of Western 
music, the masterpieces of which are its most imposing examples, which, when they are concerned not with tables 
of random numbers ( used in a way which introduces bias ) but rather with ideas of order, personal feelings, and 
the integration of these, simply suggest the presence of a man rather than the presence of sounds. The sounds of 
Indices are just sounds. Had bias not been introduced in the use of the tables of random numbers, the sounds 
would have been not just sounds but elements acting according to scientific theories of probability, elements act- 
ing in relationship due to the equal distribution of each one of those present— elements, that is to say, under the 
control of man. 

This is a lecture on composition which is indeterminate with respect to its performance. The 4 Systems by Earle 
Brown is an example. This piece may be performed by one or several players. There is no score, either for the 
solo circumstance or for that of ensemble. The quality of indeterminacy is for this reason not removed from the 
performance even where a number of players are involved, since no fixed relation of the parts exists. The original 
notation is a drawing of rectangles of various lengths and widths in ink on a single cardboard having four equal 
divisions (which are the systems). The vertical position of the rectangles refers to relative time. The width of 
the rectangles may be interpreted either as an interval where the drawing is read as two-dimensional, or as ampli- 
tude where the drawing is read as giving the illusion of a third dimension. Any of the interpretations of this 
material may be superimposed in any number and order and, with the addition or not of silences between them, 
may be used to produce a continuity of any time-length. In order to multiply the possible interpretations the 
composer gives a further permission— to read the cardboard in any of four positions: right side up, upside down, 
sideways, up and down. 

This further permission alters the situation radically. Without it, the composition was highly indeterminate 

COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/37 



of its performance. The drawing was not consciously organized. Drawn unknowingly, from the Ground of Meister 
Eckhart, it identified the composer with no matter what eventuality. But with the further permission— that of 
reading the cardboard right side up, upside down, sideways, up and down— the drawing became that of two dif- 
ferent situations or groups of situations and their inversions. Inversions are a hallmark of the conscious mind. The 
composer's identification ( though not consciously so according to him ) is therefore no longer with no matter what 
eventuality but rather with those events that are related by inversion. What might have been non-dualistic becomes 
dualistic. From a non-dualistic point of view, each thing and each being is seen at the center, and these centers 
are in a state of interpenetration and non-obstruction. From a dualistic point of view, on the other hand, each 
thing and each being is not seen: relationships are seen and interferences are seen. To avoid undesired interfer- 
ences and to make one's intentions clear, a dualistic point of view requires a careful integration of the opposites. 

If this careful integration is lacking in the composition, and in the case of 4 Systems it is ( due to the high 
degree of indeterminacy), it must be supplied in the performance. The function of the performer or of each 
performer in the case of 4 Systems is that of making something out of a store of raw materials. Structure, the 
division of the whole into parts, is indeterminate. Form, the morphology of the continuity, is also indeterminate. 
In given interpretations of the original drawing (such as those made by David Tudor sufficient in number to 
provide a performance by four pianists lasting four minutes ) method is determinate and so too are the amplitude, 
timbre, and frequency characteristics of the material. The duration characteristic of the material is both determi- 
nate and indeterminate, since fines extending from note-heads indicate exact length of time, but the total length of 
time of a system is indeterminate. The performer's function, in the case of 4 Systems, is dual: to give both structure 
and form; to provide, that is, the division of the whole into parts and the morphology of the continuity. 

Conscious only of his having made a composition indeterminate of its performance, the composer does not 
himself acknowledge the necessity of this dual function of the performer which I am describing. He does not agree 
with the view here expressed that the permission given to interpret the drawing right side up, upside down, and 
sideways, up and down obliges the integration of the opposites: conscious organization and its absence. The struc- 
tural responsibility must be fulfilled in an organized way, such as might be subjected successfully to analysis. ( The 
performers in each performance have, as a matter of record, given to each system lengths of time which are 
related as modules are in architecture: fifteen seconds and multiples thereof by two or four.) The formal respon- 
sibility must be fulfilled in one or several of the many ways which are not consciously organized. However, due 
to the identification with the conscious mind indicated in 4 Systems by the presence of inversions, though not 
acknowledged by the composer, those ways which are not consciously organized that are adjacent to the ego are 
apt to be used, particularly where the performer wishes to act in a way consistent with the composition as here 
viewed. He will in these cases perform arbitrarily, feeling his way, following the dictates of his ego; or he will 
perform arbitrarily, following his taste, in terms of sense perception. 

What might have given rise, by reason of the high degree of indeterminacy, to no matter what eventuality 
(to a process essentially purposeless) becomes productive of a time-object. This object, exceedingly complex due 
to the absence of a score, a fixed relation of the parts, is analagous to a futurist or cubist painting, perhaps, or to 
a moving picture where flicker makes seeing the object difficult. 

From the account which appears to be a history of a shift from non-dualism to dualism (not by intention, 
since the composer does not attach to the inversions the importance here given them, but as a by-product of the 
action taken to multiply possibilities) the following deduction may be made: To ensure indeterminacy with respect 
to its performance, a composition must be determinate of itself. If this indeterminacy is to have a non-dualistic 
nature, each element of the notation must have a single interpretation rather than a plurality of interpretations 
which, coming from a single source, fall into relation. Likewise— though this is not relevant to 4 Systems— one may 
deduce that a single operation within the act of composition itself must not give rise to more than a single 
notation. Where a single operation is applied to more than one notation, for example to those of both frequency and 
amplitude characteristics, the frequency and amplitude characteristics are by that operation common to both brought 
into relationship. These relationships make an object; and this object, in contrast to a process which is purposeless, 
must be viewed dualistically. Indeterminacy when present in the making of an object, and when therefore viewed 
dualistically, is a sign not of identification with no matter what eventuality but simply of carelessness with regard 
to the outcome. 

This is a lecture on composition which is indeterminate with respect to its performance. Duo II for Pianists by 
Christian Wolff is an example. In the case of Duo II for Pianists, structure, the division of the whole into parts, 
is indeterminate. ( No provision is given by the composer for ending the performance. ) Method, the note-to-note 
procedure, is also indeterminate. All the characteristics of the materials (frequency, amplitude, timbre, duration) 
are indeterminate within gamut limitations provided by the composer. The form, the morphology of the con- 
tinuity, is unpredictable. One of the pianists begins the performance: the other, noticing a particular sound or 
silence which is one of a gamut of cues, responds with an action of his own determination from among given 
possibilities within a given time bracket. Following this beginning, each panist responds to cues provided by the 
other, letting no silence fall between responses, though these responses themselves include silences. Certain time 
brackets are in zero time. There is no score, no fixed relation of the parts. Duo II for Pianists is evidently not a 
time-object, but rather a process the beginning and ending of which are irrelevant to its nature. The ending, and 

38/SILENCE 



the beg inning , will be determined in performance, not by exigencies interior to the action but by circumstances of 
the concert occasion. If the other pieces on the program take forty-five minutes of time and fifteen minutes more 
are required to bring the program to a proper length, Duo II for Pianists may be fifteen minutes long. Where only 
five minutes are available, it will be five minutes long. 

The function of each performer in the case of Duo II for Pianists is comparable to that of a traveler who 
must constantly be catching trains the departures of which have not been announced but which are in the process 
of being announced. He must be continually ready to go, alert to the situation, and responsible. If he notices no 
cue, that fact itself is a cue calling for responses indeterminate within gamut limitations and time brackets. Thus 
he notices (or notices that he does not notice) a cue, adds time bracket to time bracket, determines his response 
to come (meanwhile also giving a response), and, as the second hand of a chronometer approaches the end of 
one bracket and the be ginning of the next, he prepares himself for the action to come ( meanwhile still making an 
action), and, precisely as the second hand of a chronometer begins the next time bracket, he makes the suitable 
action (meanwhile noticing or noticing that he does not notice the next cue), and so on. How is each performer 
to fulfill this function of being alert in an indeterminate situation? Does he need to proceed cautiously in dualistic 
terms? On the contrary, he needs his mind in one piece. His mind is too busy to spend time splitting itself into 
conscious and not-conscious parts. These parts, however, are still present. What has happened is simply a com- 
plete change of direction. Rather than making the not-conscious parts face the conscious part of the mind, the 
conscious part, by reason of the urgency and indeterminacy of the situation, turns towards the not-conscious parts. 
He is therefore able, as before, to add two to two to get four, or to act in organized ways which on being subjected 
to analysis successfully are found to be more complex. But rather than concentrating his attention here, in the 
realm of relationships, variations, approximations, repetitions, logarithms, his attention is given inwardly and out- 
wardly with reference to the structure of his mind to no matter what eventuality. Turning away from himself and 
his ego-sense of separation from other beings and things, he faces the Ground of Meister Eckhart, from which all 
impermanencies flow and to which they return. "Thoughts arise not to be collected and cherished but to be 
dropped as though they were void. Thoughts arise not to be collected and cherished but to be dropped as though 
they were rotten wood. Thoughts arise not to be collected and cherished but to be dropped as though they were 
pieces of stone. Thoughts arise not to be collected and cherished but to be dropped as though they were the cold 
ashes of a fire long dead." Similarly, in the performance of Duo II for Pianists, each performer, when he performs 
in a way consistent with the composition as written, will let go of his feelings, his taste, his automatism, his sense 
of the universal, not attaching himself to this or to that, leaving by his performance no traces, providing by his 
actions no interruption to the fluency of nature. The performer therefore simply does what is to be done, not 
splitting his mind in two, not separating it from his body, which is kept ready for direct and instantaneous contact 
with his instrument. 

This is a lecture on composition which is indeterminate with respect to its performance. That composition is neces- 
sarily experimental. An experimental action is one the outcome of which is not forseen. Being unforseen, this action 
is not concerned with its excuse. Like the land, like the air, it needs none. A performance of a composition which 
is indeterminate of its performance is necessarily unique. It cannot be repeated. When performed for a second 
time, the outcome is other than it was. Nothing therefore is accomplished by such a performance, since that per- 
formance cannot be grasped as an object in time. A recording of such a work has no more value than a postcard; 
it provides a knowledge of something that happened, whereas the action was a non-knowledge of something that 
had not yet happened. 

There are certain practical matters to discuss that concern the performance of music the composition of 
which is indeterminate with respect to its performance. These matters concern the physical space of the per- 
formance. These matters also concern the physical time of the performance. In connection with the physical space 
of the performance, where that performance involves several players (two or more), it is advisable for several 
reasons to separate the performers one from the other, as much as is convenient and in accord with the action and 
the architectural situation. This separation allows the sounds to issue from their own centers and to interpenetrate 
in a way which is not obstructed by the conventions of European harmony and theory about relationships and 
interferences of sounds. In the case of the harmonious ensembles of European musical history, a fusion of sound 
was of the essence, and therefore players in an ensemble were brought as close together as possible, so that their 
actions, productive of an object in time, might be effective. In the case, however, of the performance of music 
the composition of which is indeterminate of its performance so that the action of the players is productive of a 
process, no harmonious fusion of sound is essential. A non-obstruction of sounds is of the essence. The separation 
of players in space when there is an ensemble is useful towards bringing about this non-obstruction and interpene- 
tration, which are of the essence. Furthermore, this separation in space will facilitate the independent action of 
each performer, who, not constrained by the performance of a part which has been extracted from a score, has 
turned his mind in the direction of no matter what eventuality. There is the possibility when people are crowded 
together that they will act like sheep rather than nobly. That is why separation in space is spoken of as facilitating 
independent action on the part of each performer. Sounds will then arise from actions, which will then arise from 
their own centers rather than as motor or psychological effects of other actions and sounds in the environment. 
The musical recognition of the necessity of space is tardy with respect to the recognition of space on the part of 

COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/39 



the other arts, not to mention scientific awareness. It is indeed astonishing that music as an art has kept perform- 
ing musicians so consistently huddled together in a group. It is high time to separate the players one from another, 
in order to show a musical recognition of the necessity of space, which has already been recognized on the part of 
the other arts, not to mention scientific awareness. What is indicated, too, is a disposition of the performers, in the 
case of an ensemble in space, other than the conventional one of a huddled group at one end of a recital or sym- 
phonic hall. Certainly the performers in the case of an ensemble in space will be disposed about the room. The 
conventional architecture is often not suitable. What is required perhaps is an architecture like that of Mies van der 
Rohe's School of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Some such architecture will be useful for the 
performance of composition which is indeterminate of its performance. Nor will the performers be huddled together 
in a group in the center of the audience. They must at least be disposed separately around the audience, if not, by 
approaching their disposition in the most radically realistic sense, actually disposed within the audience itself. In this 
latter case, the further separation of performer and audience will facilitate the independent action of each person, 
which will include mobility on the part of all. 

There are certain practical matters to discuss that concern the performance of music the composition of 
which is indeterminate with respect to its performance. These matters concern the physical space of the per- 
formance. These matters also concern the physical time of the performance. In connection with the physical time 
of the performance, where that performance involves several players (two or more), it is advisable for several 
reasons to give the conductor another function than that of beating time. The situation of sounds arising from 
actions which arise from their own centers will not be produced when a conductor beats time in order to unify 
the performance. Nor will the situation of sounds arising from actions which arise from their own centers be pro- 
duced when several conductors beat different times in order to bring about a complex unity to the performance. 
Beating time is not necessary. All that is necessary is a slight suggestion of time, obtained either from glancing at 
a watch or at a conductor who, by his actions, represents a watch. Where an actual watch is used, it becomes 
possible to foresee the time, by reason of the steady progress from second to second of the second hand. Where, 
however, a conductor is present, who by his actions represents a watch which moves not mechanically but vari- 
ably, it is not possible to foresee the time, by reason of the changing progress from second to second of the con- 
ductor's indications. Where this conductor, who by his actions represents a watch, does so in relation to a part 
rather than a score— to, in fact, his own part, not that of another— his actions will interpenetrate with those of the 
players of the ensemble in a way which will not obstruct their actions. The musical recognition of the necessity of 
time is tardy with respect to the recognition of time on the part of broadcast communications, radio, television, 
not to mention magnetic tape, not to mention travel by air, departures and arrivals from no matter what point at no 
matter what time, to no matter what point at no matter what time, not to mention telephony. It is indeed 
astonishing that music as an art has kept performing musicians so consistently beating time together like so many 
horseback riders huddled together on one horse. It is high time to let sounds issue in time independent of a beat 
in order to show a musical recognition of the necessity of time which has already been recognized on the part of 
broadcast communications, radio, television, not to mention magnetic tape, not to mention travel by air, departures 
and arrivals from no matter what point at no matter what time, to no matter what point at no matter what time, 
not to mention telephony. 



An Indian lady invited me to dinner and said Dr. Suzuki would be there. He was. Before dinner I 
mentioned Gertrude Stein. Suzuki had never heard of her. I described aspects of her work, which he 
said sounded very interesting. Stimulated, I mentioned James Joyce, whose name was also new to him. 
At dinner he was unable to eat the curries that were offered, so a few uncooked vegetables and fruits 
were brought, which he enjoyed. After dinner the talk turned to metaphysical problems, and there were 
many questions, for the hostess was a follower of a certain Indian yogi and her guests were more or less 
equally divided between allegiance to Indian thought and to Japanese thought. About eleven o'clock we 
were out on the street walking along, and an American lady said, "How is it, Dr. Suzuki? We spend the 
evening asking you questions and nothing is decided." Dr. Suzuki smiled and said, "That's why I love 
philosophy: no one wins." 



40/SILENCE 



The following text is made up of questions and quotations. The quotations are 
some from the writings of others and some from my own writings. (That from 
Christian Wolff is from his article "New and Electronic Music," copyright 
1958 by the Audience Press, and reprinted by permission from Audience, 
Volume V, Number 3, Summer 1958.) The order and quantity of the quotations 
were given by chance operations. No performance timing was composed. 
Nevertheless, 1 always prescribe one before delivering this lecture, sometimes 
adding by chance operations indications of when, in the course of the 
performance, I am obliged to light a cigarette. 



III. Communication 

NlCHI NICHI KOBE KO NICHI: EVERY DAY IS A BEAUTIFUL DAY 

What if I ask thirty-two questions? 

What if I stop asking now and then? 

Will that make things clear? 

Is communication something made clear? 

What is communication? 

Music, what does it communicate? 

Is what's clear to me clear to you? 

Is music just sounds? 

Then what does it communicate? 

Is a truck passing by music? 

If I can see it, do I have to hear it too? 

If I don't hear it, does it still communicate? 

If while I see it I can't hear it, but hear something else, say an egg-beater, because I'm 

inside looking out, does the truck communicate or the egg-beater, which communicates? 
Which is more musical, a truck passing by a factory or a truck 

passing by a music school? 
Are the people inside the school musical and the ones outside unmusical? 
What if the ones inside can't hear very well, would that change my question? 
Do you know what I mean when I say inside the school? 
Are sounds just sounds or are they Beethoven? 
People aren't sounds, are they? 

COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/41 



Is there such a thing as silence? 

Even if I get away from people, do I still have to listen to something? 

Say I'm off in the woods, do I have to listen to a stream babbling? 

Is there always something to hear, never any peace and quiet? 

If my head is full of harmony, melody, and rhythm, what happens to 

me when the telephone rings, to my piece and quiet, I mean? 
And if it was European harmony, melody, and rhythm in my head, what has happened 

to the history of, say, Javanese music, with respect, that is to say, to my head? 
Are we getting anywhere asking questions? 
Where are we going? 
Is this the twenty-eighth question? 
Are there any important questions? 

"How do you need to cautiously proceed in dualistic terms?" 
Do I have two more questions? 
And, now, do I have none? 

Now that I've asked thirty-two questions, can I ask forty-four more? 

I can, but may I? 

Why must I go on asking questions? 

Is there any reason in asking why? 

Would I ask why if questions were not words but were sounds? 

If words are sounds, are they musical or are they just noises? 

If sounds are noises but not words, are they meaningful? 

Are they musical? 

Say there are two sounds and two people and one of each is beautiful, 

is there between all four any communication? 
And if there are rules, who made them, I ask you? 
Does it begin somewhere, I mean, and if so, where does it stop? 
What will happen to me or to you if we have to be somewhere where beauty isn't? 
I ask you, sometime, too, sounds happening in time, what will happen to our experience 

of hearing, yours, mine, our ears, hearing, what will happen if sounds being 

beautiful stop sometime and the only sounds to hear are not beautiful to hear 

but are ugly, what will happen to us? 
Would we ever be able to get so that we thought the ugly sounds were beautiful? 
If we drop beauty, what have we got? 
Have we got truth? 

42/SILENCE 



Have we got religion? 

Do we have a mythology? 

Would we know what to do with one if we had one? 

Have we got a way to make money? 

And if money is made, will it be spent on music? 

If Russia spends sixty million for the Brussels Fair, lots of it for music and dance, and 

America spends one-tenth of that, six million about, does that mean that one out of 

ten Americans is as musical and kinesthetic as all the Russians put together? 
If we drop money, what have we got? 

Since we haven't yet dropped truth, where shall we go looking for it? 
Didn't we say we weren't going, or did we just ask where we were going? 
If we didn't say we weren't going, why didn't we? 
If we had any sense in our heads, wouldn't we know the truth instead 

of going around looking for it? 
How otherwise would we, as they say, be able to drink a glass of water? 
We know, don't we, everybody else's religion, mythology, and philosophy 

and metaphysics backwards and forwards, so what need would we have 

for one of our own if we had one, but we don't, do we? 
But music, do we have any music? 
Wouldn't it be better to just drop music too? 
Then what would we have? 
Jazz? 

What's left? 

Do you mean to say it's a purposeless play? 

Is that what it is when you get up and hear the first sound of each day? 
Is it possible that I could go on monotonously asking questions forever? 
Would I have to know how many questions I was going to ask? 
Would I have to know how to count in order to ask questions? 
Do I have to know when to stop? 

Is this the one chance we have to be alive and ask a question? 
How long will we be able to be alive? 

CONTEMPORARY MUSIC IS NOT THE MUSIC OF THE FUTURE 

NOR THE MUSIC OF THE PAST BUT SIMPLY 

MUSIC PRESENT WITH US: THIS MOMENT, NOW, 

THIS NOW MOMENT. 

COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/43 



\S 



Something remarkable has happened: I was asking questions; now I'm 
quoting from a lecture I gave years ago. Of course I will ask some 
more questions later on, but not now: I have quoting to do. 

THAT MOMENT IS ALWAYS CHANGING. ( I WAS SILENT : NOW I AM 

SPEAKING. ) HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY TELL WHAT CONTEMPORARY 

MUSIC IS, SINCE NOW WERE NOT LISTENING TO IT, WE RE LISTENING 

TO A LECTURE ABOUT IT. AND THAT ISNT IT. 

THIS IS "TONGUE-WAGGING." REMOVED AS WE ARE THIS MOMENT FROM 

CONTEMPORARY MUSIC ( WE ARE ONLY THINKING ABOUT IT ) EACH ONE OF US 

IS THINKING HIS OWN THOUGHTS, HIS OWN EXPERIENCE, AND EACH 

EXPERIENCE IS DIFFERENT AND EACH EXPERIENCE IS CHANGING AND WHILE 

WE ARE THINKING I AM TALKING AND CONTEMPORARY MUSIC IS CHANGING. 

LIKE LIFE IT CHANGES. IF IT WERE NOT CHANGING 

IT WOULD BE DEAD, AND, OF COURSE, FOR SOME OF US, SOMETIMES 

IT IS DEAD, BUT AT ANY MOMENT IT CHANGES AND IS LWING AGAIN. 

TALKING FOR A MOMENT ABOUT CONTEMPORARY MILK: 
AT ROOM TEMPERATURE IT IS CHANGING, GOES SOUR ETC., AND 
THEN A NEW BOTTLE ETC., UNLESS BY SEPARATING IT FROM ITS CHANGING 
BY POWDERING IT OR REFRIGERATION ( WHICH IS A WAY OF SLOWING 

DOWN ITS LIVELINESS ) ( THAT IS TO SAY MUSEUMS AND ACADEMIES ARE 

WAYS OF PRESERVING) WE TEMPORARILY SEPARATE THINGS FROM LIFE 

(FROM CHANGING) BUT AT ANY MOMENT DESTRUCTION MAY COME SUDDENLY 
AND THEN WHAT HAPPENS IS FRESHER 

WHEN WE SEPARATE MUSIC FROM LIFE WHAT WE GET IS ART ( A COMPENDIUM 

OF MASTERPIECES ) . WITH CONTEMPORARY MUSIC, WHEN IT IS ACTUALLY 

CONTEMPORARY, WE HAVE NO TIME TO MAKE THAT SEPARATION ( WHICH 

PROTECTS US FROM LrVING ) , AND SO CONTEMPORARY MUSIC IS 

NOT SO MUCH ART AS IT IS LIFE AND ANY ONE MAKING IT NO SOONER 

FINISHES ONE OF IT THAN HE BEGINS MAKING ANOTHER JUST AS PEOPLE 

KEEP ON WASHING DISHES, BRUSHING THEIR TEETH, GETTING SLEEPY, 

AND SO ON. VERY FREQUENTLY NO ONE KNOWS THAT 

CONTEMPORARY MUSIC IS OR COULD BE ART. HE SIMPLY THINKS IT IS 

IRRITATING. IRRITATING ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, 

THAT IS TO SAY KEEPING US FROM OSSIFYING. 

44/SILENCE 



FOR ANY ONE OF US CONTEMPORARY MUSIC 
IS OR COULD BE A WAY OF LrVTNG. 

SEVERAL STORIES OCCUR TO ME THAT I SHOULD LIKE TO INTERPOLATE . 
( IN THE SAME WAY, BY THE WAY, THAT WHILE I AM WRITING THIS THAT 
I AM NOW TALKING, THE TELEPHONE KEEPS RINGING AND THEN CONTEMPORARY 
CONVERSATION TAKES PLACE INSTEAD OF THIS PARTICULAR WAY OF 
PREPARING A LECTURE ) . THE FIRST STORY 

is from the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. his living and talking 

had impressed a musician who began to think that he should gfve 

up music and become a disciple of ramakrishna. but when he proposed 

this, Ramakrishna said, by no means. remain 

a musician: music is a means of raped transportation. 

rapid transportation, that is, to ld7e "everlasting," 
that is to say, life, period. another story is that 

when i was ferst aware that i was to grve this talk i consulted 
the Book of Changes and obtained by tossing coins the hexagram 

TO INFLUENCE, TO STIMULATE. SIX AT THE TOP MEANS THE 

INFLUENCE SHOWS ITSELF IN THE JAWS, CHEEKS, AND TONGUE AND THE 

COMMENTARY SAYS : THE MOST SUPERFICIAL WAY OF TRYING TO INFLUENCE 

OTHERS IS THROUGH TALK THAT HAS NOTHING REAL BEHIND IT. THE 

INFLUENCE PRODUCED BY SUCH MERE TONGUE- WAGGING MUST NECESSARILY 

REMAIN INSIGNIFICANT. HOWEVER, I FIND MYSELF IN 

DISAGREEMENT WITH THE COMMENTARY. I SEE NO NECESSITY TO PUT 

SOMETHING "REAL" BEHIND TONGUE- WAGGING. I DO NOT SEE THAT 

TONGUE-WAGGING IS ANY MORE SIGNIFICANT OR INSIGNIFICANT THAN ANY 

THING ELSE. IT SEEMS TO ME THAT IT IS SIMPLY A MATTER OF 

GOING ON TALKING, WHICH IS NEITHER SIGNIFICANT NOR INSIGNIFICANT, 

NOR GOOD NOR BAD, BUT SIMPLY HAPPENING TO BE THE WAY I AM RIGHT 

NOW LrVTNG WHICH IS CTVING A LECTURE IN ILLINOIS WHICH BRINGS US 

BACK TO CONTEMPORARY MUSIC. BUT TAKING OFF 

AGAIN AND RETURNING TO THE Book of Changes: THE HEXAGRAM ON GRACE 

( WHICH IS THE HEXAGRAM ON ART ) DISCUSSES THE EFFECT OF A WORK 

OF ART AS THOUGH IT WERE A LIGHT SHINING ON TOP OF A 

MOUNTAIN PENETRATING TO A CERTAIN EXTENT THE SURROUNDING DARKNESS. 

THAT IS TO SAY, ART IS DESCRIBED AS BEING ILLUMINATING, 
AND THE REST OF LIFE AS BEING DARK. NATURALLY I DISAGREE. 

COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/45 



T 



IF THERE WERE A PART OF LIFE DARK ENOUGH TO KEEP OUT OF IT A LIGHT 

FROM ART, I WOULD WANT TO BE EST THAT DARKNESS, FUMBLING AROUND D7 

NECESSARY, BUT ALTVE AND I RATHER THINK THAT CONTEMPORARY 

MUSIC WOULD BE THERE IN THE DARK TOO, BUMPING INTO THINGS, KNOCKING 

OTHERS OVER AND IN GENERAL ADDING TO THE DISORDER THAT CHARACTERIZES 

LIFE ( IF IT IS OPPOSED TO ART ) RATHER THAN ADDING TO THE 

ORDER AND STABILIZED TRUTH BEAUTY AND POWER THAT CHARACTERIZE 

A MASTERPIECE ( IF IT IS OPPOSED TO LD7E ) . AND IS IT? YES 

IT IS. MASTERPDZCES AND GENIUSES GO TOGETHER AND WHEN BY 

RUNNING FROM ONE TO THE OTHER WE MAKE LIFE SAFER THAN IT 

ACTUALLY IS WERE APT NEVER TO KNOW THE DANGERS OF 

CONTEMPORARY MUSIC OR EVEN TO BE ABLE TO DRINK 

A GLASS OF WATER. TO HAVE SOMETHING BE A MASTERPD2CE YOU 

HAVE TO HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO CLASSD7Y IT AND MAKE IT CLASSICAL. 

BUT WITH CONTEMPORARY MUSIC THERE IS NO TIME TO DO 
ANYTHING LIKE CLASSIFYING. ALL YOU CAN DO IS SUDDENLY LISTEN 

EST THE SAME WAY THAT WHEN YOU CATCH COLD ALL 
YOU CAN DO IS SUDDENLY SNEEZE. UNFORTUNATELY 

EUROPEAN THINKING HAS BROUGHT IT ABOUT THAT ACTUAL THINGS THAT 
HAPPEN SUCH AS SUDDENLY LISTENING OR SUDDENLY SNEEZING ARE NOT 

CONSroERED PROFOUND. EST THE COURSE OF A 

LECTURE LAST WINTER AT COLUMBIA, SUZUKI SATO THAT THERE WAS A 
DD7FERENCE BETWEEN ORIENTAL THINKING AND EUROPEAN THINKING, 
THAT IN EUROPEAN THINKING THINGS ARE SEEN AS CAUSING ONE 
ANOTHER AND HAVING EFFECTS, WHEREAS IN ORIENTAL THINKING 

THIS SEEING OF CAUSE AND EFFECT IS NOT EMPHASIZED 
BUT INSTEAD ONE MAKES AN DDENTTFICATION WITH WHAT IS HERE AND 
NOW. HE THEN SPOKE OF TWO QUALITIES: UNTMPEDEDNESS 

AND INTERPENETRATION. NOW THIS 

UNIMPEDEDNESS IS SEEING THAT IN ALL OF SPACE EACH THING AND 
EACH HUMAN BEING IS AT THE CENTER AND FURTHERMORE THAT EACH 
ONE BEING AT THE CENTER IS THE MOST HONORED 

ONE OF ALL. INTERPENETRATION MEANS THAT EACH ONE OF THESE 

MOST HONORED ONES OF ALL IS MOVING OUT IN ALL DIRECTIONS 
PENETRATING AND BEING PENETRATED BY EVERY OTHER ONE NO MATTER 
WHAT THE TIME OR WHAT THE SPACE. SO THAT WHEN ONE SAYS 

46/SILENCE 



THAT THERE IS NO CAUSE AND EFFECT, WHAT IS MEANT IS THAT THERE 

ARE AN INCALCULABLE INFINITY OF CAUSES AND EFFECTS, THAT IN FACT 

EACH AND EVERY THING IN ALL OF TIME AND SPACE IS RELATED TO 

EACH AND EVERY OTHER THING IN ALL OF TIME AND SPACE. THIS 

BEING SO THERE IS NO NEED TO CAUTIOUSLY PROCEED IN DUALISTIC 

TERMS OF SUCCESS AND FAILURE OR THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE UGLY 

OR GOOD AND EVIL BUT RATHER SIMPLY TO WALK ON "NOT WONDERING," 

TO QUOTE MEISTER ECKHART, "AM I RIGHT OR DOING SOMETHING WRONG." 

This is the second Tuesday in Sepember of 1958 and I still have 

quite a lot to say: I'm nowhere near the end. I have four questions I must ask. 

If, as we have, we have dropped music, does that mean we have nothing to listen to? 
Don't you agree with Kafka when he wrote, "Psychology— never again?" 
If you had to put on ten fingers the music you would take with you 

if you were going to the North Pole, what would you put? 
Is it true there are no questions that are really important? 

Here's a little information you may find informative about the information theory: 

FOURIER ANALYSIS ALLOWS A FUNCTION OF TIME (OR ANY OTHER INDEPENDENT VARIABLE) TO BE EX- 
PRESSED IN TERMS OF PERIODIC (FREQUENCY) COMPONENTS. THE FREQUENCY COMPONENTS ARE OVER- 
ALL PROPERTIES OF THE ENTIRE SIGNAL. BY MEANS OF A FOURIER ANALYSIS ONE CAN EXPRESS THE VALUE 
OF A SIGNAL AT ANY POINT EST TERMS OF THE OVER-ALL FREQUENCY PROPERTIES OF THE SIGNAL; OR VICE 
VERSA, ONE CAN OBTAIN THESE OVER-ALL PROPERTDZS FROM THE VALUES OF THE SIGNAL AT ITS VARIOUS 
POINTS. 

What did I say? 

Where is the "should" when they say you should have something to say? 
Three. Actually when you drop something, it's still with you, wouldn't you say? 
Four. Where would you drop something to get it completely away? 
Five. Why do you not do as I do, letting go of each thought as though it were void? 
Six. Why do you not do as I do, letting go of each thought as though it were rotten wood? 
Why do you not do as I do, letting go of each thought as though it were a piece of stone? 
Why do you not do as I do, letting go of each thought as though it were the cold ashes of a 
fire long dead, or else just making the slight response suitable to the occasion? 

COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/47 



Nine. Do you really think that the discovery that a measurable entity exists, namely, 
the energy which can measure mechanical, electrical, thermal, or any other kind of 
physical activity, and can measure potential as well as actual activity, greatly 
simplifies thinking about physical phenomena? 

Do you agree with Boulez when he says what he says? 

Are you getting hungry? 

Twelve. Why should you ( you know more or less what you're going to get ) ? 

Will Boulez be there or did he go away when I wasn't looking? 

Why do you suppose the number 12 was given up but the idea of the series wasn't? 

Or was it? 

And if not, why not? 

In the meantime, would you like to hear the very first performance of 
Christian Wolffs For Piano with Preparations? 

What in heaven's name are they going to serve us for dinner, and what 

happens afterwards? 
More music? 

Living or dead, that's the big question. 
When you get sleepy, do you go to sleep? 
Or do you He awake? 
Why do I have to go on asking questions? 
Is it the same reason I have to go on writing music? 
But it's clear, isn't it, I'm not writing music right now? 
Why do they call me a composer, then, if all I do is ask questions? 
If one of us says that all twelve tones should be in a row and another says they shouldn't, 

which one of us is right? 
What if a B flat, as they say, just comes to me? 
How can I get it to come to me of itself, not just pop up out of my 

memory, taste, and psychology? 
How? 

Do you know how? 
And if I did or somebody else did find a way to let a sound be itself, 

would everybody within earshot be able to listen to it? 
Why is it so difficult for so many people to listen? 
Why do they start talking when there is something to hear? 
Do they have their ears not on the sides of their heads but situated inside their mouths 

48/SILENCE 



so that when they hear something their first impulse is to start talking? 
The situation should be made more normal, don't you think? 
Why don't they keep their mouths shut and their ears open? 
Are they stupid? 

And, if so, why don't they try to hide their stupidity? 
Were bad manners acquired when knowledge of music was acquired? 
Does being musical make one automatically stupid and unable to listen? 
Then don't you think one should put a stop to studying music? 
Where are your thinking caps? 

we're passing through time and space, our ears are in excellent condition. 

a sound is high or low, soft or loud, of a certain ttmhre, lasts a certain length of time, 
and has an envelope. 



Is it high? 

Is it low? 

Is it in the middle? 

Is it soft? 

Is it loud? 

Are there two? 

Are there more than two? 

Is it a piano? 

Why isn't it? 

Was it an airplane? 

Is it a noise? 

Is it music? 

Is it softer than before? 

Is it supersonic? 

When will it stop? 

What's coming? 

Is it time? 

Is it very short? 

Very long? 

Just medium? 

If I had something to see, would it be theatre? 



COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/49 



Is sound enough? 

What more do I need? 

Don't I get it whether I need it or not? 

Is it a sound? 

Then, again, is it music? 

Is music— the word, I mean— is that a sound? 

If it is, is music music? 

Is the word "music" music? 

Does it communicate anything? 

Must it? 

If it's high, does it? 

If it's low, does it? 

If it's in the middle, does it? 

If it's soft, does it? 

If it's loud, does it? 

If it's an interval, does it? 

What is an interval? 

Is an interval a chord? 

Is a chord an aggregate? 

Is an aggregate a constellation? 

What's a constellation? 

How many sounds are there altogether? 

One million? 

Ten thousand? 

Eighty-eight? 

Do I have to ask ten more? 

Do I? 

Why? 

Why do I? 

Did I decide to ask so many? 

Wasn't I taking a risk? 

Was I? 

Why was I? 

Will it never stop? 

Why won't it? 

SO/SILENCE 



THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SILENCE. GET THEE TO AN ANECHOIC CHAMBER AND HEAR THERE THY NERVOUS 
SYSTEM IN OPERATION AND HEAR THERE THY BLOOD IN CIRCULATION. 

I HAVE NOTHING TO SAY AND I AM SAYING IT. 

Would it be too much to ask if I asked thirty-three more? 

Who's asking? 

Is it I who ask? 

Don't I know my own mind? 

Then why do I ask if I don't know? 

Then it's not too much to ask? 

Right? 

Then, tell me, do you prefer Bach to Beethoven? 

And why? 

Would you like to hear Quantitaten by Bo Nilsson whether it's 

performed for the first time or not? 
Has any one seen Meister Eckhart lately? 
Do you think serious music is serious enough? 
Is a seventh chord inappropriate in modern music? 
What about fifths and octaves? 
What if the seventh chord was not a seventh chord? 
Doesn't it seem silly to go on asking questions when there's so much 

to do that's really urgent? 
But we're halfway through, aren't we? 
Shall we buck up? 

Are we in agreement that the field of music needs to be enlivened? 
Do we disagree? 
On what? 
Communication? 

If I have two sounds, are they related? 
If someone is nearer one of them than he is to the second, is he 

more related to the first one? 
What about sounds that are too far away for us to hear them? 
Sounds are just vibrations, isn't that true? 
Part of a vast range of vibrations including radio waves, light, 

cosmic rays, isn't that true? 

COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/51 



Why didn't I mention that before? 
Doesn't that stir the imagination? 
Shall we praise God from Whom all blessings flow? 
Is a sound a blessing? 
I repeat, is a sound a blessing? 

I repeat, would you like to hear Quantitaten by Bo Nilsson whether 
it's performed for the first time or not? 

The Belgians asked me about the avant-garde in America and this is what I told them: 

in the united states there aee as many ways of writing music as there 
are composers. there is also no avatlarle information as to what is 
going on. there is no magazine concerned with modern music. purlishers 
are not inquisitive. the societies which actively exist ( hroadcast 
music inc., american society of composers, authors and publishers ) are 
concerned with economics, currently engaged in an important lawsuit, 
in new york city, the league of composers and the international 
society for contemporary music have fused, the new organization 
representing the current interest in consolidating the acquisitions 
of schoenberg and stravinsky. this circle has, no doubt, an avant-garde, 
but it is a cautious one, refusing risk. its most accomplished 
and adventurous representative is probably mllton babbitt, who, in 
certain works, has applied serial method to the several aspects of 
sound. the works for magnetic tape by luening and ussachevsky, louis 
and Bebe Barron, are not properly termed avant-garde, since they 
maintain conventions and accepted values. the young study with 
neo-classicists, so that the spirit of the avant-garde, infecting them, 
induces a certain dodecaphony. in this social darkness, therefore, the 
work of Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, and Christian Wolff continues to 
present a brilliant light, for the reason that at the several points 
of notation, performance, and audition, action is provocative. none 
of these uses serial method. brown's notation in space equal to time 

TENDS CURRENTLY TO FINE PRECISION OF DIRECTIVE. Wolff's INTRODUCTION 
IN DURATIONS OF SPLIT AND PARTIAL GRUPETTOS, IN TEMPI THAT OF ZERO, 
TENDS OPPOSITELY. THE GRAPHS OF FELDMAN CTVE WITHIN LIMITS EXTREME 
FREEDOM OF ACTION TO THE PERFORMER. 

52/SILENCE 



They also— the Belgians, that is— asked me whether the American avant-garde follows 
the same direction as the European one and this is what I told them: 

THE AMERICAN AVANT-GARDE, RECOGNIZING THE PROVOCATIVE CHARACTER OF 
CERTAIN EUROPEAN WORKS, OF PlERRE BOULEZ, KARLHEINZ StOCKHAUSEN, 

Henri Pousseur, Bo Ndlsson, Bengt Hambraeus, has in its concerts 
presented them in performances, notably by davod tudor, pianist. that 
these works are serial in method diminishes somewhat the interest 
they enjoin. but the thoroughness of the method's application bringing 
a situation removed from conventional expectation frequently 
opens the ear. however, the european works present a harmoniousness, 
a drama, or a poetry which, referring more to thedr composers than to 
thehl hearers, moves in directions not shared by the american ones. 
many of the american works envisage each auditor as central, so 
that the physical circumstances of a concert do not oppose audd2nce 
to performers but dispose the latter around-among the former, bringing 
a unique acoustical experience to each patr of ears. admittedly, a 
situation of this complexity is beyond control, yet it resembles 
a listener's situation before and after a concert— daily experience, 
that is. it appears such a continuum is not part of the european 

OBJECTTVE, SINCE IT DISSOLVES THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "art" AND "LIFE." 
TO THE UNEXPERIENCED, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE EUROPEANS AND THE 
AMERICANS LIES IN THAT THE LATTER INCLUDE MORE SDLENCE IN THEm WORKS. 
IN THIS VD2W THE MUSIC OF NlLSSON APPEARS AS INTERMEDIATE, THAT OF 
BOULEZ AND OF THE AUTHOR AS IN OPPOSITION. THIS SUPERFICIAL DIFFERENCE 
IS ALSO PROFOUND. WHEN SILENCE, GENERALLY SPEAKING, IS NOT IN 
EVIDENCE, THE WTLL OF THE COMPOSER IS. INHERENT SILENCE IS EQUIVALENT 
TO DENIAL OF THE WELL- "TAKING A NAP, I POUND THE RICE." NEVERTHELESS, 
CONSTANT ACTIVITY MAY OCCUR HAVING NO DOMINANCE OF WTLL IN IT. 
NEITHER AS SYNTAX NOR STRUCTURE, BUT ANALOGOUS TO THE SUM OF NATURE, 
IT WILL HAVE ARISEN PURPOSELESSLY. 

It's getting late, isn't it? 

I still have two things to do, so what I want to know is : Would you like to hear 
Quantitaten by Bo Nilsson whether it's performed for the first time or not? 



COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/53 



I must read a little from an article by Christian Wolff. Here's what he says: 

NOTABLE QUALITIES OF THIS MUSIC, WHETHER ELECTRONIC OR NOT, ARE MONOTONY 
AND THE IRRITATION THAT ACCOMPANIES IT. THE MONOTONY MAY LIE IN 
SIMPLICITY OR DELICACY, STRENGTH OR COMPLEXITY. COMPLEXITY TENDS TO 
REACH A POINT OF NEUTRALIZATION : CONTINUOUS CHANGE RESULTS IN A CERTAIN 
SAMENESS. THE MUSIC HAS A STATIC CHARACTER. IT GOES IN NO PARTICULAR 
DIRECTION. THERE IS NO NECESSARY CONCERN WITH TIME AS A MEASURE OF 
DISTANCE FROM A POINT IN THE PAST TO A POINT IN THE FUTURE, WITH LINEAR 
CONTINUITY ALONE. IT IS NOT A QUESTION OF GETTING ANYWHERE, OF 
MAKING PROGRESS, OR HAVING COME FROM ANYWHERE IN PARTICULAR, OF TRADITION 
OR FUTURISM. THERE IS NEITHER NOSTALGIA NOR ANTICIPATION. OFTEN 
THE STRUCTURE OF A PIECE IS CIRCULAR: THE SUCCESSION OF ITS PARTS IS 

variable, as in Pousseur's Exercises de Piano and Stockhausen's Klavierstuck XL 
in Cage's recent work the notation itself can be circular, 
the succession of notes on a stave not necessarily indicating their 
sequence in time, that is, the order in which they are performed, one 
may have to read notes on a circle, in two "voices" going in opposite 
ddrections simultaneously. an aspect of time dissolves. and the europeans 
often view organization as "global," whereby beginnings and ends 
are not points on a line but limits of a piece's material ( for example, 
pitch ranges or possible combinations of timbres ) which may be touched 
at any time during the piece. the boundaries of the piece are expressed, 
not at moments of time which mark a succession, but as margins of a 
spatial projection of the total sound structure. 

as for the quality of irritation, that is a more subjective matter, 
one might say that it is at least preferable to soothing, edifying, 
exalting, and similar qualities. its source is, of course, precisely 
in monotony, not in any forms of aggression or emphasis. it is the 
immobility of motion. and it alone, perhaps, is truly moving. 

And now I have to read a story from Kwang-Tse and then I'm finished: 

Yun Kiang, rambling to the East, having been borne along on a gentle breeze, 
suddenly encountered Hung Mung, who was rambling about, slapping his buttocks and 
hopping like a bird. Amazed at the sight, Yun Kiang stood reverentially and said to 

54/SILENCE 



the other, "Venerable Sir, who are you? and why are you doing this?" Hung Mung went 
on slapping his buttocks and hopping like a bird, but replied, "I'm enjoying myself." 
Yun Kiang said, "I wish to ask you a question." Hung Mung lifted up his head, looked at 
the stranger, and said, "Pooh !" Yun Kiang, however, continued, "The breath of heaven 
is out of harmony ; the breath of earth is bound up ; the six elemental influences do not act 
in concord ; the four seasons do not observe their proper times. Now I wish to blend together 
the essential qualities of those six influences in order to nourish all living things. How shall 
I go about it?" Hung Mung slapped his buttocks, hopped about, and shook his head, saying, 
"I do not know ; I do not know !" 

Yun Kiang could not pursue his question ; but three years afterwards, when again 
rambling in the East, as he was passing by the wild of Sung, he happened to meet 
Hung Mung. Delighted with the rencontre, he hastened to him, and said, 
"Have you forgotten me, O Heaven ? Have you forgotten me, O Heaven ?" At the same 
time, he bowed twice with his head to the ground, wishing to receive his instructions. 
Hung Mung said, "Wandering listlessly about, I know not what I seek ; carried on by a 
wild impulse, I know not where I am going. I wander about in the strange manner which 
you have seen, and see that nothing proceeds without method and order — what more 
should I know?" Yun Kiang replied, "I also seem carried on by an aimless influence, and 
yet people follow me wherever I go. I cannot help their doing so. But now as they thus 
imitate me, I wish to hear a word from you." The other said, "What disturbs the regular 
method of Heaven, comes into collision with the nature of things, prevents the 
accomplishment of the mysterious operation of Heaven, scatters the herds of animals, 
makes the birds sing at night, is calamitous to vegetation, and disastrous to all insects ; 
all this is owing, I conceive, to the error of governing men." "What then," said Yun Kiang, 
"shall I do ?" "Ah," said the other, "you will only injure them ! I will leave you in my 
dancing way, and return to my place." Yun Kiang rejoined, "It has been difficult to get this 
meeting with you, O Heaven ! I should like to hear from you a word more." 
Hung Mung said, "Ah ! your mind needs to be nourished. Do you only take the position of 
doing nothing, and things will of themselves become transformed. Neglect your body ; 
cast out from you your power of hearing and sight ; forget what you have in common with 
things ; cultivate a grand similarity with the chaos of the plastic ether ; unloose your mind ; 
set your spirit free ; be still as if you had no soul. Of all the multitude of things, every one 
returns to its root, and does not know that it is doing so. They all are as in the state of 
chaos, and during all their existence they do not leave it. If they knew that they were 
returning to their root, they would be consciously leaving it. They do not ask its name ; 
they do not seek to spy out their nature ; and thus it is that things come to life of themselves." 

COMPOSITION AS PROCESS/55 



Yun Kiang said, "Heaven, you have conferred on me the knowledge of your 
operation and revealed to me the mystery of it. All my life I have been seeking for it, and 
now I have obtained it." He then bowed twice with his head to the ground, arose, 
took his leave, and walked away. 



One day when I was across the hall visiting Sonya Sekula, I noticed that she was painting left-handed. 
I said, "Sonya, aren't you right-handed?" She said, "Yes, but I might lose the use of my right hand, and so 
I'm practicing using my left." I laughed and said, "What if you lose the use of both hands?" She was busy 
painting and didn't bother to reply. Next day when I visited her, she was sitting on the floor, painting with 
difficulty, for she was holding the brush between two toes of her left foot. 

Morris Graves introduced Xenia and me to a mim'ature island in Puget Sound at Deception Pass. To 
get there we traveled from Seattle about seventy-five miles north and west to Anacortes Island, then south 
to the Pass, where we parked. We walked along a rocky beach and then across a sandy stretch that was 
passable only at low tide to another island, continuing through some luxuriant woods up a hill where now 
and then we had views of the surrounding waters and distant islands, until finally we came to a small foot- 
bridge that led to our destination— an island no larger than, say, a modest home. This island was carpeted 
with flowers and was so situated that all of Deception Pass was visible from it, just as though we were 
in the best seats of an intimate theatre. While we were lying there on that bed of flowers, some other 
people came across the footbridge. One of them said to another, "You come all this way and then when 
you get here there's nothing to see." 

A composer friend of mine who spent some time in a mental rehabilitation center was encouraged 
to do a good deal of bridge playing. After one game, his partner was criticizing his play of an ace on a 
trick which had already been won. My friend stood up and said, "If you think I came to the loony bin 
to learn to play bridge, you're crazy." 

56/S1LENCE 



The two articles which follow are technical. Information regarding other 
compositional means may be found in the brochure accompanying George 
Avakians recording of my twenty-five-year retrospective concert at 
Town Hall in 1958. 

The first article was my part of Four Musicians at Work which was published 
in trans/formation, Volume 1, Number 3 (New York City, 1952). 



COMPOSITION 

To Describe the Process of Composition Used in 
Music of Changes and Imaginary Landscape No. 4 



My recent work (Imaginary Landscape No. TV for twelve radios and the 
Music of Changes for piano) is structurally similar to my earlier work: 
based on a number of measures having a square root, so that the large 
lengths have the same relation within the whole that the small lengths have 
within a unit of it. Formerly, however, these lengths were time-lengths, 
whereas in the recent work the lengths exist only in space, the speed of 
travel through this space being unpredictable. 

What brings about this unpredictability is the use of the method estab- 
lished in the I-Ching (Book of Changes) for the obtaining of oracles, that 
of tossing three coins six times. 

Three coins tossed once yield four lines: three heads, broken with a 
circle; two tails and a head, straight; two heads and a tail, broken; three 
tails, straight with a circle. Three coins tossed thrice yield eight trigrams 
( written from the base up ) : chien, three straight; chen, straight, broken, 
broken; kan, broken, straight, broken; ken, broken, broken, straight; kun, 
three broken; sun, broken, straight, straight; li, straight, broken, straight; 
tui, straight, straight, broken. Three coins tossed six times yield sixty-four 
hexagrams (two trigrams, the second written above the first) read in refer- 
ence to a chart of the numbers 1 to 64 in a traditional arrangement having 
eight divisions horizontally corresponding to the eight lower trigrams and 
eight divisions vertically corresponding to the eight upper trigrams. A 
hexagram having lines with circles is read twice, first as written, then as 
changed. Thus, chien-chien, straight lines with circles, is read first as 1, 

COMPOSITION/57 



then as kun-kun, 2; whereas chien-chien, straight lines without circles, is 
read only as 1. 

Charts are made of an equal number of elements (sixty-four) which 
refer to Superpositions (one chart) (how many events are happening at 
once during a given structural space); Tempi (one chart); Durations (n, 
the number of possible superpositions, in these works, eight charts ) ; Sounds 
( eight charts ) ; Dynamics ( eight charts ) . 

Where there are eight charts, four at any instant are mobile and four 
immobile ( mobile means an element passes into history once used, giving 
place to a new one; immobile means an element, though used, remains to 
be used again). Which charts are which is determined by the first toss at a 
large unit structural point, an odd number bringing about a change, an 
even number maintaining the previous status. 

The Tempi and Superpositions charts, however, remain unchanged 
through the entire work. 

In the charts for sounds thirty-two of the elements ( the even numbers ) 
are silences. The sounds themselves are single, aggregates ( cf . the accord 
sometimes obtained on a prepared piano when only one key is depressed), 
or complex situations ( constellations ) in time ( cf . the Chinese characters 
made with several strokes ) . Sounds of indefinite pitch ( noises ) are free to 
be used without any restriction. Those of definite pitch are taken as being 
twelve in number. In any chart for sounds ( there being thirty-two sounds ) 
two squares (four times four) exist, one above the other. Reading horizon- 
tally or vertically, one reads all twelve tones. In the case of the mobility of 
sounds (disappearance into history) four in succession also produce the 
twelve tones, with or without noises and repetitions. In the case of "inter- 
ference" ( the appearance of a sound having characteristics in common with 
the characteristics of the previously sounded situation ) the characteristics 
that produce the interference are omitted from the newly appearing sound 
or cut short in the situation that has previously sounded. In the radio piece, 
numbers on a tuning dial are written instead of sounds, whatever happens 
being acceptable (station, static, silence). 

In the charts for dynamics only sixteen numbers produce changes ( one, 
five, nine, etc. ) ; the others maintain the previous status. These are either 
dynamic levels or accents (in the piano piece); levels, diminuendi, and 
crescendi in the radio piece. In the piano piece, combinations of dynamic 
levels (e.g. fff >p) indicate accents; in the case of a sound complex in time 



58/ SILENCE 



this may become a diminuendo or (by retrograde interpretation) a cre- 
scendo, or derived complex. 

In the charts for durations there are sixty -four elements ( since silence 
also has length). Through use of fractions (e.g. %; % -f- % -f- y 2 ) meas- 
ured following a standard scale (2% cm. equals a crotchet), these 
durations are, for the purposes of musical composition, practically infinite 
in number. The note stem appears in space at a point corresponding to the 
appearance of the sound in time, that is if one reads at the tempo, or chang- 
ing tempo indicated. Given fractions of a quarter, half, dotted half and 
whole note up to y 8 , simple addition of fractions is the method employed 
for the generating of durations. Because addition is the generating means 
employed, the durations may be said to be "segmented." These segments 
may be permuted and/or divided by two or three ( simple nodes ) . A sound 
may then express the duration by beginning at any one of these several 
points. 

A way of relating durations to sounds has been thought of in the course 
of this work but not in it utilized: to let four durations equal a specified 
length (on the chart, horizontally or vertically and in mobility four in suc- 
cession ) —this specified length being subject to change. 

The chart for Tempi has thirty-two elements, the blanks maintaining 
the previous tempo. 

Each one of the events one to eight is worked from the beginning to 
the end of the composition. For instance, the eighth one is present from 
beginning to end but may sound only during a structural space that has 
been defined by a toss ( for Superpositions ) of fifty-seven to sixty-four. It is 
then not only present but possibly audible. It becomes actually audible if a 
sound is tossed (rather than a silence) and if the duration tossed is of a 
length that does not carry the sound beyond the structural space open to it. 

It is thus possible to make a musical composition the continuity of 
which is free of individual taste and memory (psychology) and also of the 
literature and "traditions" of the art. The sounds enter the time-space cen- 
tered within themselves, unimpeded by service to any abstraction, their 
360 degrees of circumference free for an infinite play of interpenetration. 

Value judgments are not in the nature of this work as regards either 
composition, performance, or listening. The idea of relation (the idea: 2) 
being absent, anything (the idea: 1) may happen. A "mistake" is beside 
the point, for once anything happens it authentically is. 

COMPOSITION/59 



This article, translated into German by Christian Wolff, first appeared in 
Die Reihe No. 3 (Vienna, 1957) . The English text was printed in the Universal 
Edition of Die Reihe No. 3, copyright 1959 by Theodore Presser Co., 
Pennsylvania, by whose permission it is reprinted here. 



To Describe the Process of Composition Used in 
M usk for Piano 2 7 -52 

1. Given ink, pen, and sheets of transparent paper of determined dimensions, a master page 
( without notations ) is made, having four total systems. "Total" here means having enough space 
above and below each staff to permit its being either bass or treble. Thus, there being the conven- 
tional two staves (one for each hand), each has enough space above it to accommodate nine ledger 
lines (as equidistant as those of the staves) and below it to accommodate six ledger lines plus 
(leaving room for the extreme low piano key and string). Between the two there is a narrow space, 
bisected by a line, allowing for the notation of noises produced by hand or beater upon the interior 
(above the line) or exterior (below the line) piano construction. Measurements are such that the 
entire sheet ( within margins ) is potentially useful. 

2. Laying the master page aside, chance operations derived from the I-Ching and channeled 
within certain limits ( 1-128 for 21-36; 1-32 for 37-52) (which are established in relation to relative 
difficulty of performance ) are employed to determine the number of sounds per page. 

3. A blank sheet of transparent paper is then placed so that its pointal imperfections may readily 
be observed. That number of imperfections corresponding to the determined number of sounds is 
intensified with pencil. 

4. Placing the penciled sheet in a registered way upon the master page, first the staves and 
interline and then the ledger lines where necessary are inscribed in ink. Secondly, conventional 
whole notes are written in ink wherever a penciled point falls within the area of staves or ledger 
lines, inked-in notes ( crotchets without stems ) being written wherever such a point falls within the 
space between the two staves. This operation is done roughly, since, through the use of conventional 
lines and spaces, points falling in the latter are in the majority. Thus it is determined that a point, 
though not on a line, is actually more nearly so than it is at the center of the adjacent space. 

5. Eight single coin tosses are made determining the clefs, bass or treble, and inscribed in ink. 

60/ SILENCE 



6. The sixty-four possibilities of the I-Ching are divided by chance operations into three groups 
relative to three categories: normal (played on the keyboard); muted; and plucked (the two latter 
played on the strings ) . For example, having tossed numbers 6 and 44, a number 1 through 5 will 
produce a normal; 6 through 43 a muted; 44 through 64 a plucked piano tone. A certain weight of 
probability exists in favor of the second and third categories. Though this has not appeared to be of 
consequence, it indicates a possible change in "technique." The categories having been determined, 
notations (M and P) are conveniently placed in reference to the notes. 

A similar procedure is followed to determine whether a tone is natural, sharp, or flat, the 
procedure being altered, of course, for the two extreme keys where only two possibilities exist. 

7. The notation of the composition is thus completed. Much that occurs in performance has 
not been determined. Therefore, the following note is fixed at the head of the manuscript: "These 
pieces constitute two groups of sixteen pieces (21-36; 37-52) which may be played alone or together 
and with or without Music for Piano 4-19. 1 Their length in time is free; there may or may not be 
silence between them; they may be overlapped. Given a programed time length, the pianists may 
make a calculation such that their concert will fill it. Duration of individual tones and dynamics are 
free." 

COMMENTARY 

A performance is characterized by the programed time length calculated beforehand and adhered 
to through the use of a stop watch. This is primarily of use in relation to an entire page, secondarily 
of use in relation, to say, a system; for it is possible that, though the space of the page is here equal to 
time, the performance being realized by a human being rather than a machine, such space may be 
interpreted as moving, not only constantly, but faster or slower. Thus, finally, nothing has been 
determined by the notation as far as performance time is concerned. And, as concerns timbre (the 
noises, the three categories ) next to nothing has been determined. This is especially the case where 
P is interpreted as meaning a plucked muted string or M a muted plucked string. Nor, indeed, have 
the points on the strings where these latter operations are to be made been indicated. And— and this 
may be considered a fundamental omission— nothing has been indicated regarding the architecture 
of the room in which the music is to be played and the placement ( customarily distant one from 
another) of the instruments (how many?) therein. All these elements, evidently of paramount 
importance, point the question: What has been composed? ^ 

1 The composition of these pieces followed a different procedure and, furthermore, did not include interior and 
exterior construction noises. 



COMPOSITION/61 



This article first appeared in the March 1949 issue of The Tiger's Eye, a 
journal edited by Ruth and John Stephan from Bleecker Street in New York. 
It was translated into French by Frederick Goldbeck, who changed the title 
to Raison d'etre de la musique moderne. This was published in Contrepoints 
(Paris) later in the same year. 



FORERUNNERS OF MODERN MUSIC 



Strategy 



The purpose of music 

Music is edifying, for from time to time it sets the soul in operation. The soul is the 
gatherer-together of the disparate elements (Meister Eckhart), and its work fills 
one with peace and love. 

Definitions 

Structure in music is its divisibility into successive parts from phrases to long 
sections. Form is content, the continuity. Method is the means of controlling the 
continuity from note to note. The material of music is sound and silence. Inte- 
grating these is composing. 

Structure is properly mind-controlled. Both delight in precision, clarity, and the 
observance of rules. Whereas form wants only freedom to be. It belongs to the 
heart; and the law it observes, if indeed it submits to any, has never been and never 
will be written. 1 Method may be planned or improvised (it makes no difference: 
in one case, the emphasis shifts towards thinking, in the other towards feeling; a 
piece for radios as instruments would give up the matter of method to accident). 
Likewise, material may be controlled or not, as one chooses. Normally the choice 
of sounds is determined by what is pleasing and attractive to the ear: delight in 
the giving or receiving of pain being an indication of sickness. 

1 Any attempt to exclude the "irrational" is irrational. Any composing strategy which is wholly "rational" is 
irrational in the extreme. 

62/SILENCE 



Refrain 

Activity involving in a single process the many, turning them, even though some 
seem to be opposites, towards oneness, contributes to a good way of life. 

The plot thickens 

When asked why, God being good, there was evil in the world, Sri Ramakrishna said: 
To thicken the plot. 

The aspect of composition that can properly be discussed with the end in view of 
general agreement is structure, for it is devoid of mystery. Analysis is at home here. 

Schools teach the making of structures by means of classical harmony. Out- 
side school, however (e.g., Satie and Webern), a different and correct 2 structural 
means reappears : one based on lengths of time. 3, 4 

In the Orient, harmonic structure is traditionally unknown, and unknown 
with us in our pre-Renaissance culture. Harmonic structure is a recent Occidental 
phenomenon, for the past century in a process of disintegration. 5 
Atonality 6 has happened 

The disintegration of harmonic structure is commonly known as atonality. All that 
is meant is that two necessary elements in harmonic structure— the cadence, and 
modulating means— have lost their edge. Increasingly, they have become ambig- 
uous, whereas their very existence as structural elements demands clarity ( single- 
ness of reference) . Atonality is simply the maintenance of an ambiguous tonal state 
of affairs. It is the denial of harmony as a structural means. The problem of a 
composer in a musical world in this state is to supply another structural means, 7 

' Sound has four characteristics: pitch, timbre, loudness, and duration. The opposite and necessary coexistent 
of sound is silence. Of the four characteristics of sound, only duration involves both sound and silence. Therefore, 
a structure based on durations (rhythmic: phrase, time lengths) is correct (corresponds with the nature of the 
material ) , whereas harmonic structure is incorrect ( derived from pitch, which has no being in silence ) . 

* This never disappeared from jazz and folk music. On the other hand, it never developed in them, for they 
are not cultivated species, growing best when left wild. 

4 Tala is based on pulsation, Western rhythmic structure on phraseology. 
8 For an interesting, detailed proof of this, see Casella's book on the cadence. 

* The term "atonality" makes no sense. Schoenberg substitutes "pantonality," Lou Harrison ( to my mind and 
experience the preferable term) "proto-tonality." This last term suggests what is actually the case: present even in 
a random multiplicity of tones (or, better, sounds [so as to include noises]), is a gravity, original and natural, 
"proto," to that particular situation. Elementary composition consists in discovering the ground of the sounds em- 
ployed, and then letting life take place both on land and in the air. 

7 Neither Schoenberg nor Stravinsky did this. The twelve-tone row does not offer a structural means; it is a 
method, a control, not of the parts, large and small, of a composition, but only of the minute, note-to-note pro- 
cedure. It usurps the place of counterpoint, which, as Carl Ruggles, Lou Harrison, and Merton Brown have shown, 
is perfectly capable of functioning in a chromatic situation. Neo-classicism, in reverting to the past, avoids, by 
refusing to recognize, the contemporary need for another structure, gives a new look to structural harmony. This 
automatically deprives it of the sense of adventure, essential to creative action. 

FORERUNNERS OF MODERN MUSIC/63 



just as in a bombed-out city the opportunity to build again exists. 8 This way one 
finds courage and a sense of necessity. 

Interlude (Meister Eckhart) 

"But one must achieve this unselfconsciousness by means of transformed knowl- 
edge. This ignorance does not come from lack of knowledge but rather it is from 
knowledge that one may achieve this ignorance. Then we shall be informed by 
the divine unconsciousness and in that our ignorance will be ennobled and adorned 
with supernatural knowledge. It is by reason of this fact that we are made perfect 
by what happens to us rather than by what we do." 

At random 

Music means nothing as a thing. 

A finished work is exactly that, requires resurrection. 

The responsibility of the artist consists in perfecting his work so that it may become attractively disinteresting. 

It is better to make a piece of music than to perform one, better to perform one than to listen to one, better to 
listen to one than to misuse it as a means of distraction, entertainment, or acquisition of "culture." 

Use any means to keep from being a genius, all means to become one. 

Is counterpoint good? "The soul itself is so simple that it cannot have more than one idea at a time of anything. . . . 
A person cannot be more than single in attention." (Eckhart) 

Freed from structural responsibility, harmony becomes a formal element (serves expression). 

Imitating either oneself or others, care should be taken to imitate structure, not form (also structural materials 
and structural methods, not formal materials and formal methods ) , disciplines, not dreams; thus one remains "inno- 
cent and free to receive anew with each Now-moment a heavenly gift." ( Eckhart ) 

If the mind is disciplined, the heart turns quickly from fear towards love. 

Before making a structure by means of rhythm, it is necessary to decide what rhythm is. 

This could be a difficult decision to make if the concern were formal (expressive) 
or to do with method (point to point procedure); but since the concern is struc- 
tural (to do with divisibility of a composition into parts large and small), the 
decision is easily reached: rhythm in the structural instance is relationships of 
lengths of time. 9 Such matters, then, as accents on or off the beat, regularly re- 
curring or not, pulsation with or without accent, steady or unsteady, durations 
motivically conceived (either static or to be varied), are matters for formal 

8 The twelve-tone row offers bricks but no plan. The neo-classicists advise building it the way it was before, 
but surfaced fashionably. 

B Measure is literally measure— nothing more, for example, than the inch of a ruler— thus permitting the 
existence of any durations, any amplitude relations (meter, accent), any silences. 

64/SILENCE 



Claim 



( expressive ) use, or, if thought about, to be considered as material ( in its "textural" 
aspect) or as serving method. In the case of a year, rhythmic structure is a matter of 
seasons, months, weeks, and days. Other time lengths such as that taken by a fire 
or the playing of a piece of music occur accidentally or freely without explicit recog- 
nition of an all-embracing order, but nevertheless, necessarily within that order. 
Coincidences of free events with structural time points have a special luminous 
character, because the paradoxical nature of truth is at such moments made ap- 
parent. Caesurae on the other hand are expressive of the independence ( accidental 
or willed ) of freedom from law, law from freedom. 

Any sounds of any qualities and pitches (known or unknown, definite or indefi- 
nite), any contexts of these, simple or multiple, are natural and conceivable within 
a rhythmic structure which equally embraces silence. Such a claim is remarkably 
like the claims to be found in patent specifications for and articles about tech- 
nological musical means ( see early issues of Modern Music and the Journal of the 
Acoustical Society of America). From differing beginning points, towards possibly 
different goals, technologists and artists (seemingly by accident) meet by inter- 
section, becoming aware of the otherwise unknowable ( conjunction of the in and 
the out), imagining brightly a common goal in the world and in the quietness 
within each human being. 

Just as art as sand painting ( art for the now-moment 10 rather than for posterity's 
museum civilization) becomes a held point of view, adventurous workers in the 
field of synthetic music (e.g. Norman McLaren) find that for practical and eco- 
nomic reasons work with magnetic wires (any music so made can quickly and 
easily be erased, rubbed off) is preferable to that with film. 11 

The use of technological means 12 requires the close anonymous collaboration 
of a number of workers. We are on the point of being in a cultural situation, 13 

10 This is the very nature of the dance, of the performance of music, or any other art requiring performance 
(for this reason, the term "sand painting" is used: there is a tendency in painting (permanent pigments), as in 
poetry (printing, binding), to be secure in the thingness of a work, and thus to overlook, and place nearly insur- 
mountable obstacles in the path of, instantaneous ecstasy). 

11 Twenty-four or n frames per second is the "canvas" upon which this music is written; thus, in a very 
obvious way, the material itself demonstrates the necessity for time (rhythmic) structure. With magnetic means, 
freedom from the frame of film means exists, but the principle of rhythmic structure should hold over as, in geom- 
etry, a more elementary theorem remains as a premise to make possible the obtaining of those more advanced. 

u "I want to be as though new-born, knowing nothing, absolutely nothing about Europe." (Paul Klee) 
13 Replete with new concert halls : the movie houses ( vacated by home television fans, and too numerous for 
a Hollywood whose only alternative is "seriousness" ) . 

FORERUNNERS OF MODERN MUSIC/65 



For instance: 



without having made any special effort to get into one 1 * (if one can discount 
lamentation). 

The in-the-heart path of music leads now to self-knowledge through self- 
denial, and its in-the-world path leads likewise to selflessness. 15 The heights that 
now are reached by single individuals at special moments may soon be densely 
populated. 

" Painting in becoming literally (actually) realistic— (this is the twentieth century) seen from above, the earth, 
snow-covered, a composition of order superimposed on the "spontaneous" (Cummings) or of the latter letting 
order be (from above, so together, the opposites, they fuse) (one has only to fly [highways and topography, 
Milarepa, Henry Ford] to know)— automatically will reach the same point (step by step) the soul leaped to. 

" The machine fathers mothers heroes saints of the mythological order, works only when it meets with 
acquiescence (cf. The King and the Corpse, by Heinrich Zimmer, edited by Joseph Campbell). 



Peggy Guggenheim, Santomaso, and I were in a Venetian restaurant. There were only two other 
people dining in the same room and they were not conversing. I got to expressing my changed views with 
regard to the French and the Italians. I said that I had years before preferred the French because of their 
intelligence and had found the Italians playful but intellectually not engaging; that recently, however, I 
found the French cold in spirit and lacking in freedom of the mind, whereas the Italians seemed warm 
and surprising. Then it occurred to me that the couple in the room were French. I called across to them 
and said, "Are you French?" The lady replied. "We are," she said, "but we agree with you completely." 

Richard Lippold called up and said, "Would you come to dinner and bring the I-Ching?" I said I 
would. It turned out he'd written a letter to the Metropolitan proposing that he be commissioned for a 
certain figure to do The Sun. This letter withheld nothing about the excellence of his art, and so he 
hesitated to send it, not wishing to seem presumptuous. Using the coin oracle, we consulted the I-Ching. 
It mentioned a letter. Advice to send it was given. Success was promised, but the need for patience was 
mentioned. A few weeks later, Richard Lippold called to say that his proposal had been answered but 
without commitment, and that that should make clear to me as it did to him what to think of the I-Ching. 
A year passed. The Metropolitan Museum finally commissioned The Sun. Richard Lippold still does not 
see eye to eye with me on the subject of chance operations. 

The question of leading tones came up in the class in experimental composition that I give at the 
New School. I said, "You surely aren't talking about ascending half-steps in diatonic music. Is it not true 
that anything leads to whatever follows?" But the situation is more complex, for things also lead back- 
wards in time. This also does not give a picture that corresponds with reality. For, it is said, the Buddha's 
enlightenment penetrated in every direction to every point in space and time. 

66/SILENCE 



The following article was written at the request of Dr. Wolfgang Steinecke, 
Director of the Internationale Ferienkiirse fiir Neue Musik at Darmstadt. The 
German translation by Heinz Klaus Metzger was published in the 1959 issue 
of Darmstadter Beitrage. The statement by Christian Wolff quoted herein is 
from his article "New and Electronic Music," copyright 1958 by the Audience 
Press, and reprinted by permission from Audience, Volume V, Number 3, 
Summer 1958. 



HISTORY OF EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC IN THE UNITED STATES 

Once when Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki was giving a talk at Columbia Uni- 
versity he mentioned the name of a Chinese monk who had figured in the 
history of Chinese Buddhism. Suzuki said, "He lived in the ninth or the 
tenth century." He added, after a pause, "Or the eleventh century, or the 
twelfth or thirteenth century or the fourteenth." 

About the same time, Willem de Kooning, the New York painter, gave 
a talk at the Art Alliance in Philadelphia. Afterwards there was a discus- 
sion: questions and answers. Someone asked De Kooning who the painters 
of the past were who had influenced him the most. De Kooning said, "The 
past does not influence me; I influence it." 

A little over ten years ago I acted as music editor for a magazine called 
Possibilities. Only one issue of this magazine appeared. However: in it, four 
American composers (Virgil Thomson, Edgard Varese, Ben Weber, and 
Alexei Haieff ) answered questions put to them by twenty other composers. 
My question to Varese concerned his views of the future of music. His an- 
swer was that neither the past nor the future interested him; that his con- 
cern was with the present. 

Sri Ramakrishna was once asked, "Why, if God is good, is there evil in 
the world?" He said, "In order to thicken the plot." Nowadays in the field of 
music, we often hear that everything is possible; ( for instance ) that with 
electronic means one may employ any sound (any frequency, any ampli- 
tude, any timbre, any duration) ; that there are no limits to possibility. This 

HISTORY OF EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC IN THE UNITED STATES/67 



is technically, nowadays, theoretically possible and in practical terms is 
often felt to be impossible only because of the absence of mechanical aids 
which, nevertheless, could be provided if the society felt the urgency of 
musical advance. Debussy said quite some time ago, "Any sounds in any 
combination and in any succession are henceforth free to be used in a 
musical continuity." Paraphrasing the question put to Sri Ramakrishna and 
the answer he gave, I would ask this: "Why, if everything is possible, do we 
concern ourselves with history (in other words with a sense of what is 
necessary to be done at a particular time?" And I would answer, "In order 
to thicken the plot." In this view, then, all those interpenetrations which 
seem at first glance to be hellish— history, for instance, if we are speaking 
of experimental music— are to be espoused. One does not then make just 
any experiment but does what must be done. By this I mean one does not 
seek by his actions to arrive at money but does what must be done; one 
does not seek by his actions to arrive at fame ( success ) but does what must 
be done; one does not seek by his actions to provide pleasure to the senses 
( beauty ) but does what must be done; one does not seek by his actions to 
arrive at the establishing of a school (truth) but does what must be done. 
One does something else. What else? 

In an article called "New and Electronic Music," Christian Wolff says: 
"What is, or seems to be, new in this music? . . . One finds a concern for a 
kind of objectivity, almost anonymity— sound come into its own. The 'music' 
is a resultant existing simply in the sounds we hear, given no impulse by ex- 
pressions of self or personality. It is indifferent in motive, originating in no 
psychology nor in dramatic intentions, nor in literary or pictorial purposes. 
For at least some of these composers, then, the final intention is to be free 
of artistry and taste. But this need not make their work 'abstract/ for noth- 
ing, in the end, is denied. It is simply that personal expression, drama, 
psychology, and the like are not part of the composer's initial calculation: 
they are at best gratuitous. 

"The procedure of composing tends to be radical, going directly to the 
sounds and their characteristics, to the way in which they are produced and 
how they are notated." 

"Sound come into its own." What does that mean? For one thing: it 
means that noises are as useful to new music as so-called musical tones, for 
the simple reason that they are sounds. This decision alters the view of 



68/SILENCE 



history, so that one is no longer concerned with tonality or atonality, 
Schoenberg or Stravinsky (the twelve tones or the twelve expressed as 
seven plus five), nor with consonance and dissonance, but rather with 
Edgard Varese who fathered forth noise into twentieth-century music. But 
it is clear that ways must be discovered that allow noises and tones to be 
just noises and tones, not exponents subservient to Varese's imagination. 

What else did Varese do that is relevant to present necessity? He was 
the first to write directly for instruments, giving up the practice of making 
a piano sketch and later orchestrating it. What is unnecessary in Varese 
( from a present point of view of necessity ) are all his mannerisms, of which 
two stand out as signatures (the repeated note resembling a telegraphic 
transmission and the cadence of a tone held through a crescendo to maxi- 
mum amplitude). These mannerisms do not establish sounds in their own 
right. They make it quite difficult to hear the sounds just as they are, for 
they draw attention to Varese and his imagination. 

What is the nature of an experimental action? It is simply an action 
the outcome of which is not foreseen. It is therefore very useful if one has 
decided that sounds are to come into their own, rather than being exploited 
to express sentiments or ideas of order. Among those actions the outcomes 
of which are not foreseen, actions resulting from chance operations are use- 
ful. However, more essential than composing by means of chance opera- 
tions, it seems to me now, is composing in such a way that what one does 
is indeterminate of its performance. In such a case one can just work 
directly, for nothing one does gives rise to anything that is preconceived. 
This necessitates, of course, a rather great change in habits of notation. I 
take a sheet of paper and place points on it. Next I make parallel fines on 
a transparency, say five parallel lines. I establish five categories of sound 
for the five lines, but I do not say which fine is which category. The trans- 
parency may be placed on the sheet with points in any position and read- 
ings of the points may be taken with regard to all the characteristics one 
wishes to distinguish. Another transparency may be used for further meas- 
urements, even altering the succession of sounds in time. In this situation 
no chance operations are necessary ( for instance, no tossing of coins ) for 
nothing is foreseen, though everything may be later minutely measured or 
simply taken as a vague suggestion. 

Implicit here, it seems to me, are principles familiar from modern 

HISTORY OF EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC IN THE UNITED STATES/69 



painting and architecture: collage and space. What makes this action like 
Dada are the underlying philosophical views and the collagelike actions. 
But what makes this action unlike Dada is the space in it. For it is the space 
and emptiness that is finally urgently necessary at this point in history 
(not the sounds that happen in it— or their relationships) (not the stones- 
thinking of a Japanese stone garden— or their relationships but the empti- 
ness of the sand which needs the stones anywhere in the space in order to 
be empty). When I said recently in Darmstadt that one could write music 
by observing the imperfections in the paper upon which one was writing, a 
student who did not understand because he was full of musical ideas asked, 
"Would one piece of paper be better than another: one for instance that 
had more imperfections?" He was attached to sounds and because of his 
attachment could not let sounds be just sounds. He needed to attach himself 
to the emptiness, to the silence. Then things— sounds, that is— would come 
into being of themselves. Why is this so necessary that sounds should be 
just sounds? There are many ways of saying why. One is this: In order that 
each sound may become the Buddha. If that is too Oriental an expression, 
take the Christian Gnostic statement: "Split the stick and there is Jesus." 

We know now that sounds and noises are not just frequencies 
( pitches ) : that is why so much of European musical studies and even so 
much of modern music is no longer urgently necessary. It is pleasant if you 
happen to hear Beethoven or Chopin or whatever, but it isn't urgent to do 
so any more. Nor is harmony or counterpoint or counting in meters of two, 
three, or four or any other number. So that much of Ives ( Charles Ives ) is 
no longer experimental or necessary for us (though people are so used to 
knowing that he was the first to do such and such). He did do things in 
space and in collage, and he did say, Do this or this (whichever you 
choose), and so indeterminacy which is so essential now did enter into his 
music. But his meters and rhythms are no longer any more important for 
us than curiosities of the past like the patterns one finds in Stravinsky. 
Counting is no longer necessary for magnetic tape music ( where so many 
inches or centimeters equal so many seconds ) : magnetic tape music makes 
it clear that we are in time itself, not in measures of two, three, or four or 
any other number. And so instead of counting we use watches if we want 
to know where in time we are, or rather where in time a sound is to be. All 
this can be summed up by saying each aspect of sound (frequency, ampli- 



70/SILENCE 



tude, timbre, duration ) is to be seen as a continuum, not as a series of dis- 
crete steps favored by conventions (Occidental or Oriental). (Clearly all 
the Americana aspects of Ives are in the way of sound coming into its own, 
since sounds by their nature are no more American than they are Egyptian. ) 
Carl Ruggles? He works and reworks a handful of compositions so that 
they better and better express his intentions, which perhaps ever so slightly 
are changing. His work is therefore not experimental at all but in a most 
sophisticated way attached to the past and to art. 

Henry Cowell was for many years the open sesame for new music in 
America. Most selflessly he published the New Music Edition and encour- 
aged the young to discover new directions. From him, as from an efficient 
information booth, you could always get not only the address and telephone 
number of anyone working in a lively way in music, but you could also get 
an unbiased introduction from him as to what that anyone was doing. He 
was not attached (as Varese also was not attached) to what seemed to so 
many to be the important question: Whether to follow Schoenberg or 
Stravinsky. His early works for piano, long before Varese's Ionization 
(which, by the way, was published by Cowell), by their tone clusters and 
use of the piano strings, pointed towards noise and a continuum of timbre. 
Other works of his are indeterminate in ways analogous to those currently 
in use by Boulez and Stockhausen. For example: Cowell's Mosaic Quartet, 
where the performers, in any way they choose, produce a continuity from 
composed blocks provided by him. Or his Elastic Musics, the time lengths 
of which can be short or long through the use or omission of measures 
provided by him. These actions by Cowell are very close to current experi- 
mental compositions which have parts but no scores, and which are there- 
fore not objects but processes providing experience not burdened by 
psychological intentions on the part of the composer. 

And in connection with musical continuity, Cowell remarked at the 
New School before a concert of works by Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, 
Morton Feldman, and myself, that here were four composers who were 
getting rid of glue. That is: Where people had felt the necessity to stick 
sounds together to make a continuity, we four felt the opposite necessity to 
get rid of the glue so that sounds would be themselves. 

Christian Wolff was the first to do this. He wrote some pieces vertically 
on the page but recommended their being played horizontally left to right, 

HISTORY OF EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC IN THE UNITED STATES/71 



as is conventional. Later he discovered other geometrical means for freeing 
his music of intentional continuity. Morton Feldman divided pitches into 
three areas, high, middle, and low, and established a time unit. Writing on 
graph paper, he simply inscribed numbers of tones to be played at any 
time within specified periods of time. 

There are people who say, "If music's that easy to write, I could do it." 
Of course they could, but they don't. I find Feldman's own statement more 
affirmative. We were driving back from some place in New England where 
a concert had been given. He is a large man and falls asleep easily. Out of 
a sound sleep, he awoke to say, "Now that things are so simple, there's so 
much to do." And then he went back to sleep. 

Giving up control so that sounds can be sounds (they are not men: 
they are sounds) means for instance: the conductor of an orchestra is no 
longer a policeman. Simply an indicator of time— not in beats— like a chro- 
nometer. He has his own part. Actually he is not necessary if all the players 
have some other way of knowing what time it is and how that time is 
changing. 

What else is there to say about the history of experimental music in 
America? Probably a lot. But we don't need to talk about neo-classicism 
(I agree with Varese when he says neo-classicism is indicative of intel- 
lectual poverty ), nor about the twelve-tone system. In Europe, the number 
twelve has already been dropped and in a recent lecture Stockhausen ques- 
tions the current necessity for the concept of a series. ElliottjCarter's ideas 
about rhythmic modulation are not experimental. They just extend sophis- 
tication out from tonality ideas towards ideas about modulation from one 
tempo to another. They put a new wing on the academy and open no doors 
to the world outside the school. Cowell's present interests in the various 
traditions, Oriental and early American, are not experimental but eclectic. 
Jazz per se derives from serious music. And when serious music derives 
from it, the situation becomes rather silly. 

One must make an exception in the case of William Russell. Though 
still living, he no longer composes. His works, though stemming from jazz 
—hot jazz— New Orleans and Chicago styles— were short, epigrammatic, 
original, and entirely interesting. It may be suspected that he lacked the 
academic skills which would have enabled him to extend and develop his 
ideas. The fact is, his pieces were all expositions without development and 



72/S1LENCE 



therefore, even today, twenty years after their composition, interesting to 
hear. He used string drums made from kerosene cans, washboards, out-of- 
tune upright pianos; he cut a board such a length that it could be used to 
play all the eighty-eight piano keys at once. 

If one uses the word "experimental" ( somewhat differently than I have 
been using it) to mean simply the introduction of novel elements into one's 
music, we find that America has a rich history: the clusters of Leo Ornstein, 
the resonances of Dane Rudhyar, the near-Eastern aspects of Alan Hov- 
haness, the tack piano of Lou Harrison, my own prepared piano, the dis- 
tribution in space of instrumental ensembles in works by Henry Brant, the 
sliding tones of Ruth Crawford and, more recently, Gunther Schuller, the 
microtones and novel instruments of Harry Partch, the athematic continu- 
ity of cliches of Virgil Thomson. These are not experimental composers in 
my terminology, but neither are they part of the stream of European music 
which though formerly divided into neo-classicism and dodecaphony has 
become one in America under Arthur Berger's term, consolidation: consoli- 
dation of the acquisitions of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. 

Actually America has an intellectual climate suitable for radical ex- 
perimentation. We are, as Gertrude Stein said, the oldest country of the 
twentieth century. And I like to add: in our air way of knowing nowness. 
Buckminster Fuller, the dymaxion architect, in his three-hour lecture on 
the history of civilization, explains that men leaving Asia to go to Europe 
went against the wind and developed machines, ideas, and Occidental 
philosophies in accord with a struggle against nature; that, on the other 
hand, men leaving Asia to go to America went with the wind, put up a 
sail, and developed ideas and Oriental philosophies in accord with the 
acceptance of nature. These two tendencies met in America, producing a 
movement into the air, not bound to the past, traditions, or whatever. Once 
in Amsterdam, a Dutch musician said to me, "It must be very difficult for 
you in America to write music, for you are so far away from the centers of 
tradition." I had to say, "It must be very difficult for you in Europe to write 
music, for you are so close to the centers of tradition." Why, since the 
climate for experimentation in America is so good, why is American ex- 
perimental music so lacking in strength politically (I mean unsupported 
by those with money [individuals and foundations], unpublished, undis- 
cussed, ignored) , and why is there so little of it that is truly uncompromis- 

HISTORY OF EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC IN THE UNITED STATES/73 



ing? I think the answer is this: Until 1950 about all the energy for furthering 
music in America was concentrated either in the League of Composers or 
in the ISCM ( another way of saying Boulanger and Stravinsky on the one 
hand and Schoenberg on the other). The New Music Society of Henry 
Cowell was independent and therefore not politically strong. Anything that 
was vividly experimental was discouraged by the League and the ISCM. 
So that a long period of contemporary music history in America was devoid 
of performances of works by Ives and Varese. Now the scene changes, but 
the last few years have been quiet. The League and the ISCM fused and, 
so doing, gave no concerts at all. We may trust that new life will spring up, 
since society like nature abhors a vacuum. 

What about music for magnetic tape in America? Otto Luening and 
Vladimir Ussachevsky call themselves experimental because of their use 
of this new medium. However, they just continue conventional musical 
practices, at most extending the ranges of instruments electronically and 
so forth. The Barrons, Louis and Bebe, are also cautious, doing nothing 
that does not have an immediate popular acceptance. The Canadian 
Norman McLaren, working with film, is more adventurous than these— also 
the Whitney brothers in California. Henry Jacobs and those who surround 
him in the San Francisco area are as conventional as Luening, Ussachevsky, 
and the Barrons. These do not move in directions that are as experimental 
as those taken by the Europeans: Pousseur, Berio, Maderna, Boulez, Stock- 
hausen, and so forth. For this reason one can complain that the society of 
musicians in America has neither recognized nor furthered its native musi- 
cal resource ( by "native" I mean that resource which distinguishes it from 
Europe and Asia— its capacity to easily break with tradition, to move easily 
into the air, its capacity for the unforeseen, its capacity for experimenta- 
tion ) . The figures in the ISCM and the League, however, were not powerful 
aesthetically, but powerful only politically. The names of Stravinsky, 
Schoenberg, Webern are more golden than any of their American deriva- 
tives. These latter have therefore little musical influence, and now that 
they are becoming quiescent politically, one may expect a change in the 
musical society. 

The vitality that characterizes the current European musical scene 
follows from the activities of Boulez, Stockhausen, Nono, Maderna, Pous- 
seur, Berio, etc. There is in all of this activity an element of tradition, con- 



74/SILENCE 



tinuity with the past, which is expressed in each work as an interest in 
continuity whether in terms of discourse or organization. By critics this 
activity is termed post-Webernian. However, this term apparently means 
only music written after that of Webern, not music written because of that 
of Webern: there is no sign of klangfarbenmelodie, no concern for discon- 
tinuity—rather a surprising acceptance of even the most banal of continuity 
devices: ascending or descending linear passages, crescendi and diminu- 
endi, passages from tape to orchestra that are made imperceptible. The 
skills that are required to bring such events about are taught in the acad- 
emies. However, this scene will change. The silences of American experi- 
mental music and even its technical involvements with chance operations 
are being introduced into new European music. It will not be easy, how- 
ever, for Europe to give up being Europe. It will, nevertheless, and must: 
for the world is one world now. 

History is the story of original actions. Once when Virgil Thomson was 
giving a talk at Town Hall in New York City, he spoke of the necessity of 
originality. The audience immediately hissed. Why are people opposed to 
originality? Some fear the loss of the status quo. Others realize, I suppose, 
the fact that they will not make it. Make what? Make history. There are 
kinds of originality: several that are involved with success, beauty, and 
ideas (of order, of expression: i.e., Bach, Beethoven); a single that is not 
involved, neuter, so to say. All of the several involved kinds are generally 
existent and only bring one sooner or later to a disgust with art. Such orig- 
inal artists appear, as Antonin Artaud said, as pigs: concerned with self- 
advertisement. What is advertised? Finally, and at best, only something 
that is connected not with making history but with the past: Bach, Beetho- 
ven. If it's a new idea of order, it's Bach; if it's a heartfelt expression, it's 
Beethoven. That is not the single necessary originality that is not involved 
and that makes history. That one sees that the human race is one person 
(all of its members parts of the same body, brothers— not in competition 
any more than hand is in competition with eye) enables him to see that 
originality is necessary, for there is no need for eye to do what hand so well 
does. In this way, the past and the present are to be observed and each 
person makes what he alone must make, bringing for the whole of human 
society into existence a historical fact, and then, on and on, in continuum 
and discontinuum. 

HISTORY OF EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC IN THE UNITED STATES/75 



The text below first appeared in the 1958 Art News Annual. It is an imaginary 
conversation between Satie and myself. Because he died over thirty years 
before, neither of us hears what the other says. His remarks are ones he is 
reported to have made and excerpts from his writings. 



ERIK SATIE 

There'll probably be some music, but we'll manage 
to find a quiet corner where we can talk. 

A few days ago it rained. I should be out gathering 
mushrooms. But here I am, having to write about 
Satie. In an unguarded moment I said I would. 
Now I am pestered with a deadline. Why, in 
heaven's name, don't people read the books about 
him that are available, play the music that's pub- 
lished? Then I for one could go back to the woods 
and spend my time profitably. 

Nevertheless, we must bring about a music which 
is like furniture— a music, that is, which will be part 
of the noises of the environment, will take them 
into consideration. I think of it as melodious, sof- 
tening the noises of the knives and forks, not domi- 
nating them, not imposing itself. It would fill up 
those heavy silences that sometimes fall between 
friends dining together. It would spare them the 
trouble of paying attention to their own banal re- 
marks. And at the same time it would neutralize 
the street noises which so indiscretely enter into 
the play of conversation. To make such music 
would be to respond to a need. 

Records, too, are available. But it would be an act 
of charity even to oneself to smash them whenever 

76/SILENCE 



they are discovered. They are useless except for 
that and for the royalties which the composer, 
dead now some thirty-odd years, can no longer 
pick up. 



We cannot doubt that animals both love and prac- 
tice music. That is evident. But it seems their musi- 
cal system differs from ours. It is another school. 
. . . We are not familiar with their didactic works. 
Perhaps they don't have any. 



Who's interested in Satie nowadays anyway? Not 
Pierre Boulez: he has the twelve tones, governs 
La Domaine Musicale, whereas Satie had only the 
Group of Six and was called Le Maitre d'Arcueil. 
Nor Stockhausen: I imagine he has not yet given 
Satie a thought. . . . Current musical activities in- 
volve two problems: ( 1 ) applying the idea of the 
series inherent in the twelve-tone system to the 
organization of all the characteristics of sound, 
viz., frequency, duration, amplitude, timbre, pro- 
ducing a more controlled situation than before 
attempted (Stockhausen: "It makes me feel so 
good to know that I am on the right track.") ; and 
(2a) discovering and acting upon the new musi- 
cal resources ( all audible sounds in any combina- 
tion and any continuity issuing from any points 
in space in any transformations) handed to us 
upon the magnetic plate of tape, or ( 2b ) some- 
how arranging economical instrumental occasions 
(tape is expensive) so that the action which re- 
sults presupposes a totality of possibility. ... Is 
Satie relevant in mid-century? 



I am bored with dying of a broken heart. Every- 
thing I timidly start fails with a boldness before 
unknown. What can I do but turn towards God 



ERIK SATIE/77 



and point my finger at him? I have come to the 
conclusion that the old man is even more stupid 
than he is weak. 



Taking the works of Satie chronologically ( 1886- 
1925), successive ones often appear as completely 
new departures. Two pieces will be so different as 
not to suggest that the same person wrote them. 
Now and then, on the other hand, works in suc- 
cession are so alike, sometimes nearly identical, as 
to bring to mind the annual exhibitions of painters, 
and to allow musicologists to discern stylistic pe- 
riods. Students busy themselves with generalized 
analyses of harmonic, melodic, and rhythmic mat- 
ters with the object of showing that in Socrate all 
these formal principles are found, defined, and re- 
united in a homogeneous fashion ( as befits a mas- 
terpiece). From this student point of view, Pierre 
Boulez is justified in rejecting Satie. Le bon 
Maitre's harmonies, melodies, and rhythms are no 
longer of interest. They provide pleasure for those 
who have no better use for their time. They've lost 
their power to irritate. True, one could not endure 
a performance of Vexations ( lasting [my estimate] 
twenty-four hours; 840 repetitions of a fifty-two 
beat piece itself involving a repetitive structure: 
A,Ai,A,A 2 , each A thirteen measures long), but 
why give it a thought? 



How white it is! no painting ornaments it; it is all 
of a piece. ( Reverie on a plate ) 



An artist conscientiously moves in a direction 
which for some good reason he takes, putting one 
work in front of the other with the hope he'll ar- 
rive before death overtakes him. But Satie de- 
spised Art ("J'emmerde VArt"). He was going 



78/SILENCE 



L. 



nowhere. The artist counts: 7, 8, 9, etc. Satie ap- 
pears at unpredictable points springing always 
from zero: 112, 2, 49, no etc. The absence of transi- 
tion is characteristic not only between finished 
works, but at divisions, large and small, within a 
single one. It was in the same way that Satie made 
his living: he never took a regular (continuity- 
giving) job, plus raises and bonuses (climaxes). 
No one can say for sure anything about the String 
Quartet he was on the point of writing when he 
died. 



They will tell you I am not a musician. That's right. 
. . . Take the Fils des Etoiles or the Morceaux en 
forme de poire, En habit de cheval or the Sara- 
bandes, it is clear no musical idea presided at the 
creation of these works. 



Curiously enough, the twelve-tone system has no 
zero in it. Given a series: 3, 5, 2, 7, 10, 8, 11, 9, 1, 6, 
4, 12 and the plan of obtaining its inversion by 
numbers which when added to the corresponding 
ones of the original series will give 12, one obtains 
9, 7, 10, 5, 2, 4, 1, 3, 11, 6, 8 and 12. For in this sys- 
tem 12 plus 12 equals 12. There is not enough of 
nothing in it. 



It's a large stairway, very large. 

It has more than a thousand steps, all made of ivory. 

It is very handsome. 

Nobody dares use it 

For fear of spoiling it. 

The King himself never does. 

Leaving his room 

He jumps out the window. 



ERIK SATIE/79 



So, he often says: 

I love this stairway so much 

I'm going to have it stuffed. 

Isn't the King right? 



Is it not a question of the will, this one, I mean, of 
giving consideration to the sounds of the knives 
and forks, the street noises, letting them enter in?, 
(Or call it magnetic tape, musique concrete, 
furniture music. It's the same thing: working in 
terms of totality, not just the discretely chosen 
conventions. ) 

Why is it necessary to give the sounds of knives 
and forks consideration? Satie says so. He is right. 
Otherwise the music will have to have walls to 
defend itself, walls which will not only constantly 
be in need of repair, but which, even to get a drink 
of water, one will have to pass beyond, inviting 
disaster. It is evidently a question of bringing 
one's intended actions into relation with the am- 
bient unintended ones. The common denominator 
is zero, where the heart beats (no one means to 
circulate his blood ) . 



Show me something new; I'll begin all over again. 



Of course "it is another school"— this moving out 
from zero. 



Flowers! But, dear lady, it is too soon! 



80/SILENCE 



To repeat: a sound has four characteristics: fre- 
quency, amplitude, timbre and duration. Silence 
(ambient noise) has only duration. A zero musi- 
cal structure must be just an empty time. Satie 
made at least three kinds of empty time structures: 



6 



A: 



(numbers are of measures). Symmetry, which 
itself suggests zero, is here horizontal, whereas in: 



6 



B: 



6 



it is vertical; and in: 



C: 



1 



2 


2 2 
1 11 1 




2 

1 1 


1 


2 
1 1 



it is geometric ( the large numbers are groups of 
measures ) . 



V 



When I was young, people told me: You'll see 
when you're fifty. I'm fifty. I've seen nothing. 



A time that's just time will let sounds be just 
sounds and if they are folk tunes, unresolved ninth 
chords, or knives and forks, just folk tunes, un- 
resolved ninth chords, or knives and forks. 



I am in complete agreement with our enemies. It's 
a shame that artists advertise. However, Beethoven 
was not clumsy in his publicity. That's how he be- 
came known, I believe. 



ERIK SATIE/81 



I 



It ( L'Esprit Nouveau) teaches us to tend towards 
an absence (simplicite) of emotion and an inac- 
tivity (fermete) in the way of prescribing sonori- 
ties and rhythms which lets them affirm themselves 
clearly, in a straight line from their plan and pitch, 
conceived in a spirit of humility and renunciation. 



To be interested in Satie one must be disinterested* 
to begin with, accept that a sound is a sound and 
a man is a man, give up illusions about ideas of 
order, expressions of sentiment, and all the rest of 
our inherited aesthetic claptrap. 



If I fail, so much the worse for me. It's because I 
had nothing in me to begin with. 






It's not a question of Satie's relevance. He's indis- 
pensable. 



No longer anything to be done in that direction, I 
must search for something else or I am lost. 



This subject is entertaining ( "What's necessary is 
to be uncompromising to the end") but it is getting 
nowhere, and more than ever there are things to 
be done. 



Listen, my friends, when I leave you like this and 
must go home on foot, it is towards dawn I come 
near Arcueil. When I pass through the woods, the 
birds beginning to sing, I see an old tree, its leaves 
rustling, I go near, I put my arms around it and 
think, What a good character, never to have 
harmed anyone. 

—and, on another occasion, 

Personally, I am neither good nor bad. I oscillate, 
if I may say so. Also I've never really done anyone 
any harm— nor any good, to boot. 

82/SILENCE 



The Fall 1958 issue of Nutida Musik (Stockholm) was devoted to the work of 
Edgard Varese. I contributed the following article. 



EDGARD VARESE 



Changes which are characteristic of a living organism (and twentieth- 
century music is one) have become recently more marked and occur in 
more rapid succession. In the history Varese appears sometimes as a figure 
of the past; and, again, as one active according to present necessities. 

Facts about his life and work are difficult to obtain. He considers in- 
terest in them to be a form of necrophilia; he prefers to leave no traces. 
Analytical studies of his work are somehow not relevant to one's experience 
of it. Though Varese has defined music as "organized sound," it is unclear 
how he brings about the organization of his works. He has often insisted 
upon imagination as a sine qua non, and the presence of his imagination is 
strong as handwriting in each of his works. The characteristic flourish is a 
tone sustained through a crescendo to the maximum amplitude. 

For those who are interested in sounds just as they are, apart from 
psychology about them, one must look further for Varese's present rele- 
vance. This is not found in the character of his imagination, which has to do 
with him— not with sound itself. Nor is his use of tape relevant, for in Deserts 
he attempts to make tape sound like the orchestra and vice versa, showing 
again a lack of interest in the natural differences of sounds, preferring to 
give them all his unifying signature. In this respect his need for continuity 
does not correspond to the present need for discontinuity (discontinuity 
has the effect of divorcing sounds from the burden of psychological inten- 
tions ) . Though Varese was the first to write directly for instrumental en- 
sembles ( giving up the piano sketch and its orchestral coloration), his way 

EDGARD VARESE/83 



of doing this was controlled by his imagination to the point of exploiting 
the sounds for his own purposes. 

Recently ( 1957-1958 ) he has found a notation for jazz improvisation 
of a form controlled by himself. Though the specific notes are not deter- 
mined by him, the amplitudes are; they are characteristic of his imagina- 
tion, and the improvisations, though somewhat indeterminate, sound like 
his other works. 

In these respects Varese is an artist of the past. Rather than dealing 
with sounds as sounds, he deals with them as Varese. 

However, more clearly and actively than anyone else of his generation, 
he established the present nature of music. This nature does not arise from 
pitch relations ( consonance-dissonance ) nor from twelve tones nor seven 
plus five (Schoenberg-Stravinsky), but arises from an acceptance of all 
audible phenomena as material proper to music. While others were still 
discriminating "musical" tones from noises, Varese moved into the field of 
sound itself, not splitting it in two by introducing into the perception of it a 
mental prejudice. That he fathered forth noise— that is to say, into twentieth- 
century music— makes him more relative to present musical necessity than 
even the Viennese masters, whose notion of the number 12 was some time 
ago dropped and shortly, surely, their notion of the series will be seen as 
no longer urgently necessary. 



One summer day, Merce Cunningham and I took eight children to Bear Mountain Park. The paths 
through the zoo were crowded. Some of the children ran ahead, while others fell behind. Every now 
and then we stopped, gathered all the children together, and counted them to make sure none had been 
lost. Since it was very hot and the children were getting difficult, we decided to buy them ice cream 
cones. This was done in shifts. While I stayed with some, Merce Cunningham took others, got them cones, 
and brought them back. I took the ones with cones. He took those without. Eventually all the children 
were supplied with ice cream. However, they got it all over their faces. So we went to a water fountain 
where people were lined up to get a drink, put the children in line, tried to keep them there, and waited 
our turn. Finally, I knelt beside the fountain. Merce Cunningham turned it on. Then I proceeded one by 
one to wash the children's faces. While I was doing this, a man behind us in line said rather loudly, 
"There's a washroom over there." I looked up at him quickly and said, "Where? And how did you know 
I was interested in mushrooms?" 



84/SILENCE 



One day I asked Schoenberg what he thought about the international situation. He said, "The im- 
portant thing to do is to develop foreign trade." 

Earle Brown and I spent several months splicing magnetic tape together. We sat on opposite sides 
of the same table. Each of us had a pattern of the splicing to be done, the measurements to be made, etc. 
Since we were working on tapes that were later to be synchronized, we checked our measurements every 
now and then against each other. We invariably discovered errors in each other's measurements. At first 
each of us thought the other was being careless. When the whole situation became somewhat exasperating, 
we took a single ruler and a single tape and each one marked where he thought an inch was. The two 
marks were at different points. It turned out that Earle Brown closed one eye when he made his measure- 
ments, whereas I kept both eyes open. We then tried closing one of my eyes, and later opening both of 
his. There still was disagreement as to the length of an inch. Finally we decided that one person should 
do all the final synchronizing splices. But then errors crept in due to changes in weather. In spite of these 
obstacles, we went on doing what we were doing for about five more months, twelve hours a day, until 
the work was finished. 

Dorothy Norman invited me to dinner in New York. There was a lady there from Philadelphia who 
was an authority on Buddhist art. When she found out I was interested in mushrooms, she said, "Have 
you an explanation of the symbolism involved in the death of the Buddha by his eating a mushroom?" 
I explained that I'd never been interested in symbolism; that I preferred just taking things as themselves, 
not as standing for other things. But then a few days later while rambling in the woods I got to thinking. 
I recalled the Indian concept of the relation of life and the seasons. Spring is Creation. Summer is 
Preservation. Fall is Destruction. Winter is Quiescence. Mushrooms grow most vigorously in the fall, the 
period of destruction, and the function of many of them is to bring about the final decay of rotting 
material. In fact, as I read somewhere, the world would be an impassible heap of old rubbish were it 
not for mushrooms and their capacity to get rid of it. So I wrote to the lady in Philadelphia. I said, "The 
function of mushrooms is to rid the world of old rubbish. The Buddha died a natural death." 

Once I was visiting my Aunt Marge. She was doing her laundry. She turned to me and said, "You 
know? I love this machine much more than I do your Uncle Walter." 

One Sunday morning, Mother said to Dad, "Let's go to church." Dad said, "O.K." When they drove 
up in front, Dad showed no sign of getting out of the car. Mother said, "Aren't you coming in?" Dad 
said, "No, I'll wait for you here." 

After a long and arduous journey a young Japanese man arrived deep in a forest where the teacher 
of his choice was living in a small house he had made. When the student arrived, the teacher was 
sweeping up fallen leaves. Greeting his master, the young man received no greeting in return. And to 
all his questions, there were no replies. Realizing there was nothing he could do to get the teacher's 
attention, the student went to another part of the same forest and built himself a house. Years later, when 
he was sweeping up fallen leaves, he was enlightened. He then dropped everything, ran through the 
forest to his teacher, and said, "Thank you." 

EDGARD VARESE/85 



While I was studying with Adolph Weiss in the early 1930's, I became aware 
of his unhappiness in face of the fact that his music was rarely performed. I too 
had experienced difficulty in arranging performances of my compositions, so 
I determined to consider a piece of music only half done when I completed a 
manuscript. It was my responsibility to finish it by getting it played. 

It was evident that musicians interested in new music were rare. It was 
equally evident that modern dancers were grateful for any sounds or noises 
that could be produced for their recitals. My first commission was from the 
Physical Education Department of U.C.L.A. An accompaniment for an aquatic 
ballet was needed. Using drums and gongs, I found that the swimmers 
beneath the surface of the water, not being able to hear the sounds, lost their 
places. Dipping the gongs into the water while still playing them solved the 
problems of synchronization and brought the sliding tones of the "water gong" 
into the percussion orchestra. 



FOUR STATEMENTS ON THE DANCE 



Very soon I was earning a livelihood accompanying dance classes and 
occasionally writing music for performances. In 1937 I was at the Cornish 
School in Seattle, associated with Bonnie Bird, who had danced with Martha 
Graham. Merce Cunningham was a student, so remarkable that he soon left 
Seattle for New York, where he became a soloist in the Graham company. Four 
or five years later I went to New York and encouraged Cunningham to give 
programs of his own dances. We have worked together since 1943. 



86/SILENCE 



This article was part of a series, Percussion Music and Its Relation to the 
Modern Dance, that appeared in Dance Observer in 1939. It was written in 
Seattle where I had organized a concert- giving percussion ensemble. 



Goal: New Music, New Dance 

Percussion music is revolution. Sound and rhythm have too long been sub- 
missive to the restrictions of nineteenth-century music. Today we are fight- 
ing for their emancipation. Tomorrow, with electronic music in our ears, 
we will hear freedom. 

Instead of giving us new sounds, the nineteenth-century composers 
have given us endless arrangements of the old sounds. We have turned on 
radios and always known when we were tuned to a symphony. The sound 
has always been the same, and there has not been even a hint of curiosity as 
to the possibilities of rhythm. For interesting rhythms we have listened 
to jazz. 

At the present stage of revolution, a healthy lawlessness is warranted. 
Experiment must necessarily be carried on by hitting anything— tin pans, 
rice bowls, iron pipes— anything we can lay our hands on. Not only hitting, 
but rubbing, smashing, making sound in every possible way. In short, we 
must explore the materials of music. What we can't do ourselves will be 
done by machines and electrical instruments which we will invent. 

The conscientious objectors to modern music will, of course, attempt 
everything in the way of counterrevolution. Musicians will not admit that 
we are making music; they will say that we are interested in superficial 
effects, or, at most, are imitating Oriental or primitive music. New and 
original sounds will be labeled as "noise." But our common answer to every 
criticism must be to continue working and listening, making music with its 
materials, sound and rhythm, disregarding the cumbersome, top-heavy 
structure of musical prohibitions. 

FOUR STATEMENTS ON THE DANCE/87 



These prohibitions removed, the choreographer will be quick to real- 
ize a great advantage to the modern dance: the simultaneous composition 
of both dance and music. The materials of dance, already including rhythm, 
require only the addition of sound to become a rich, complete vocabulary. 
The dancer should be better equipped than the musician to use this vo- 
cabulary, for more of the materials are already at his command. Some 
dancers have made steps in this direction by making simple percussion 
accompaniments. Their use of percussion, unfortunately, has not been con- 
structive. They have followed the rhythm of their own dance movement, 
accentuated it and punctuated it with percussion, but they have not given 
the sound its own and special part in the whole composition. They have 
made the music identical with the dance but not cooperative with it. 
Whatever method is used in composing the materials of the dance can be 
extended to the organization of the musical materials. The form of the 
music-dance composition should be a necessary working together of all 
materials used. The music will then be more than an accompaniment; it 
will be an integral part of the dance. 



When I was growing up in California there were two things that everyone assumed were good for 
you. There were, of course, others— spinach and oatmeal, for instance— but right now I'm thinking of 
sunshine and orange juice. When we lived at Ocean Park, I was sent out every morning to the beach 
where I spent the day building roily-coasters in the sand, complicated downhill tracks with tunnels and 
inclines upon which I rolled a small hard rubber ball. Every day toward noon I fainted because the sun 
was too much for me. When I fainted I didn't fall down, but I couldn't see; there were flocks of black 
spots wherever I looked. I soon learned to find my way in that blindness to a hamburger stand where I'd 
ask for something to eat. Sitting in the shade, I'd come to. It took me much longer, about thirty-five years 
in fact, to learn that orange juice was not good for me either. 

Before studying Zen, men are men and mountains are mountains. While studying Zen, things become 
confused. After studying Zen, men are men and mountains are mountains. After telling this, Dr. Suzuki 
was asked, "What is the difference between before and after?" He said, "No difference, only the feet are 
a little bit off the ground." 

88/SILENCE 



The following piece was printed in Dance Observer in 1944. 



Grace and Clarity 



The strength that comes from firmly established art practices is not present 
in the modern dance today. Insecure, not having any clear direction, the 
modern dancer is willing to compromise and to accept influences from 
other more rooted art manners, enabling one to remark that certain dancers 
are either borrowing from or selling themselves to Broadway, others are 
learning from folk and Oriental arts, and many are either introducing into 
their work elements of the ballet, or, in an all-out effort, devoting them- 
selves to it. Confronted with its history, its former power, its present in- 
security, the realization is unavoidable that the strength the modern dance 
once had was not impersonal but was intimately connected with and ulti- 
mately dependent on the personalities and even the actual physical bodies 
of the individuals who imparted it. 

The techniques of the modern dance were once orthodox. It did not 
enter a dancer's mind that they might be altered. To add to them was the 
sole privilege of the originators. 

Intensive summer courses were the scenes of the new dispensations, 
reverently transmitted by the master-students. When the fanatically 
followed leaders began, and when they continued, to desert their own 
teachings (adapting chiefly balletish movements to their own rapidly- 
growing-less-rigorous techniques ) , a general and profound insecurity fell 
over the modern dance. 

Where any strength now exists in the modern dance, it is, as before, 
in isolated personalities and physiques. In the case of the young, this is 
unfortunate; for, no matter how impressive and revelatory their expressed 

FOUR STATEMENTS ON THE DANCE/89 



outlooks on life are, they are overshadowed, in the minds of audiences, and 
often, understandably, in the dancers' own minds, by the more familiar, 
more respected, and more mature older personalities. 

Personality is a flimsy thing on which to build an art. ( This does not 
mean that it should not enter into an art, for, indeed, that is what is meant 
by the word style. ) And the ballet is obviously not built on such an ephem- 
eron, for, if it were, it would not at present thrive as it does, almost devoid 
of interesting personalities and certainly without the contribution of any 
individual's message or attitude toward life. 

That the ballet has something seems reasonable to assume. That what 
it has is what the modern dance needs is here expressed as an opinion. 

It is seriously to be doubted whether tour jetS, entrechat six, or sur les 
pointes (in general) are needed in the modern dance. Even the prettiness 
and fanciness of these movements would not seem to be requisite. Also, it 
is not true that the basis of the ballet lies in glittering costumes and sets, for 
many of the better ballets appear year after year in drab, weather-beaten 
accoutrements. 

Ballets like Les Sylphides, Swan Lake, almost any Pas de Deux or 
Quatre, and currently, the exceptional Danses Concertantes have a strength 
and validity quite beyond and separate from the movements involved, 
whether or not they are done with style (expressed personality), the orna- 
mented condition of the stage, quality of costumery, sound of the music, 
or any other particularities, including those of content. Nor does the secret 
lie in that mysterious quantity, form. (The forms of the ballet are mostly 
dull; symmetry is maintained practically without question. ) 

Good or bad, with or without meaning, well dressed or not, the ballet 
is always clear in its rhythmic structure. Phrases begin and end in such a 
way that anyone in the audience knows when they begin and end, and 
breathes accordingly. It may seem at first thought that rhythmic structure 
is not of primary importance. However, a dance, a poem, a piece of music 
( any of the time arts ) occupies a length of time, and the manner in which 
this length of time is divided first into large parts and then into phrases 
(or built up from phrases to form eventual larger parts) is the work's very 
life structure. The ballet is in possession of a tradition of clarity of its rhyth- 
mic structure. Essential devices for bringing this about have been handed 
down generation after generation. These particular devices, again, are not 



90/SILENCE 



to be borrowed from the ballet: they are private to it. But the function they 
fulfill is not private; it is, on the contrary, universal. 

Oriental dancing, for instance, is clear in its phraseology. It has its own 
devices for obtaining it. Hot jazz is never unclear rhythmically. The poems 
of Gerard Manley Hopkins, with all their departure from tradition, enable 
the reader to breathe with them. The modern dance, on the other hand, is 
rarely clear. 

When a modern dancer has followed music that was clear in its phrase 
structure, the dance has had a tendency to be clear. The widespread habit 
of choreographing the dance first, and obtaining music for it later, is not in 
itself here criticized. But the fact that modern choreographers have been 
concerned with things other than clarity of rhythmic structure has made 
the appearance of it, when the dance-first-music-later method was used, 
both accidental and isolated. This has led to a disregard of rhythmic struc- 
ture even in the case of dancing to music already written, for, in a work 
like Martha Graham's Deaths and Entrances, an audience can know where 
it is in relation to the action only through repeated seeings and the belying 
action of memory. On the other hand, Martha Graham and Louis Horst 
together were able to make magnificently clear and moving works like their 
Frontier, which works, however, stand alarmingly alone in the history of 
the modern dance. 

The will to compromise, mentioned above, and the admirable humility 
implied in the willingness to learn from other art manners is adolescent, but 
it is much closer to maturity than the childish blind following of leaders 
that was characteristic of the modern dance several years ago. If, in receiv- 
ing influences from the outside, the modern dance is satisfied with copying, 
or adapting to itself, surface particularities (techniques, movements, de- 
vices of any kind), it will die before it reaches maturity; if, on the other 
hand, the common denominator of the completely developed time arts, the 
secret of art life, is discovered by the modern dance, Terpsichore will have 
a new and rich source of worshippers. 

With clarity of rhythmic structure, grace forms a duality. Together 
they have a relation like that of body and soul. Clarity is cold, mathe- 
matical, inhuman, but basic and earthy. Grace is warm, incalculable, hu- 
man, opposed to clarity, and like the air. Grace is not here used to mean 
prettiness; it is used to mean the play with and against the clarity of the 

FOUR STATEMENTS ON THE DANCE/91 



rhythmic structure. The two are always present together in the best works 
of the time arts, endlessly, and lif e-givingly, opposed to each other. 

"In the finest specimens of versification, there seems to be a perpetual 
conflict between the law of the verse and the freedom of the language, and 
each is incessantly, though insignificantly, violated for the purpose of 
giving effect to the other. The best poet is not he whose verses are the most 
easily scanned, and whose phraseology is the commonest in its materials, 
and the most direct in its arrangement; but rather he whose language com- 
bines the greatest imaginative accuracy with the most elaborate and sen- 
sible metrical organisation, and who, in his verse, preserves everywhere the 
living sense of the metre, not so much by unvarying obedience to, as by 
innumerable small departures from, its modulus." (Coventry Patmore, 
Prefatory Study on English Metrical Law, 1879, pp. 12-13) 

The "perpetual conflict" between clarity and grace is what makes hot 
jazz hot. The best performers continually anticipate or delay the phrase 
beginnings and endings. They also, in their performances, treat the beat 
or pulse, and indeed, the measure, with grace: putting more or fewer icti 
within the measure's limits than are expected ( similar alterations of pitch 
and timbre are also customary), contracting or extending the duration of 
the unit. This, not syncopation, is what pleases the hep-cats. 

Hindu music and dancing are replete with grace. This is possible be- 
cause the rhythmic structure in Hindu time arts is highly systematized, has 
been so for many ages, and every Hindu who enjoys listening to music or 
looking at the dance is familiar with the laws of tala. Players, dancers, and 
audience enjoy hearing and seeing the laws of the rhythmic structure now 
observed and now ignored. 

This is what occurs in a beautifully performed classic or neo-classic 
ballet. And it is what enables one to experience pleasure in such a perform- 
ance, despite the fact that such works are relatively meaningless in our 
modern society. That one should, today, have to see Swan Lake or some- 
thing equally empty of contemporary meaning in order to experience the 
pleasure of observing clarity and grace in the dance, is, on its face, lamen- 
table. Modern society needs, as usual, and now desperately needs, a strong 
modern dance. 

The opinion expressed here is that clarity of rhythmic structure with 
grace are essential to the time arts, that together they constitute an aes- 



92/SILENCE 



thetic ( that is, they he under and beneath, over and above, physical and 
personal particularities), and that they rarely occur in the modern dance; 
that the latter has no aesthetic (its strength having been and being the 
personal property of its originators and best exponents ) , that, in order for 
it to become strong and useful in society, mature in itself, the modern dance 
must clarify its rhythmic structure, then enliven it with grace, and so get 
itself a theory, the common, universal one about what is beautiful in a 
time art. 



In Zen they say: If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, try it for 
eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on. Eventually one discovers that it's not boring at all but very interesting. 

At the New School once I was substituting for Henry Cowell, teaching a class in Oriental music. I 
had told him I didn't know anything about the subject. He said, "That's all right. Just go where the 
records are. Take one out. Play it and then discuss it with the class." Well, I took out the first record. It 
was an LP of a Buddhist service. It began with a short microtonal chant with sliding tones, then soon 
settled into a single loud reiterated percussive beat. This noise continued relendessly for about fifteen 
minutes with no perceptible variation. A lady got up and screamed, and then yelled, "Take it off. I can't 
bear it any longer." I took it off. A man in the class then said angrily, "Why'd you take it off? I was just 
getting interested." 

During a counterpoint class at U.C.L.A., Schoenberg sent everybody to the blackboard. We were to 
solve a particular problem he had given and to turn around when finished so that he could check on the 
correctness of the solution. I did as directed. He said, "That's good. Now find another solution." I did. 
He said, "Another." Again I found one. Again he said, "Another." And so on. Finally, I said, "There are 
no more solutions." He said, "What is the principle underlying all of the solutions?" 

I went to a concert upstairs in Town Hall. The composer whose works were being performed had 
provided program notes. One of these notes was to the effect that there is too much pain in the world. 
After the concert I was walking along with the composer and he was telling me how the performances 
had not been quite up to snuff. So I said, "Well, I enjoyed the music, but I didn't agree with that program 
note about there being too much pain in the world." He said, "What? Don't you think there's enough?" 
I said, "I think there's just the right amount." 

FOUR STATEMENTS ON THE DANCE/93 



In This Day . 



Many of my performances with Merce Cunningham and Dance Company are 
given in academic situations. Now and then the director of the concert series 
asks for an introductory talk. The following remarks were written for audiences 
in St. Louis and at Principia College in the autumn of 1956. Then a few 
months later, in January 1957, they appeared in Dance Observer. 



In this day of TV-darkened homes, a live performance has become some- 
thing of a rarity, so much so that Aaron Copland recently said a concert is a 
thing of the past. Nevertheless, I would like to say a few words regarding 
the new direction taken by our company of dancers and musicians. 

Though some of the dances and music are easily enjoyed, others are 
perplexing to certain people, for they do not unfold along conventional 
lines. For one thing, there is an independence of the music and dance, 
which, if one closely observes, is present also in the seemingly usual works. 
This independence follows from Mr. Cunningham's faith, which I share, 
that the support of the dance is not to be found in the music but in the 
dancer himself, on his own two legs, that is, and occasionally on a single one. 

Likewise the music sometimes consists of single sounds or groups of 
sounds which are not supported by harmonies but resound within a space 
of silence. From this independence of music and dance a rhythm results 
which is not that of horses' hoofs or other regular beats but which reminds 
us of a multiplicity of events in time and space— stars, for instance, in the 
sky, or activities on earth viewed from the air. 

We are not, in these dances and music, saying something. We are 
simple-minded enough to think that if we were saying something we would 
use words. We are rather doing something. The meaning of what we do is 
determined by each one who sees and hears it. At a recent performance of 
ours at Cornell College in Iowa, a student turned to a teacher and said, 
"What does it mean?" The teacher's reply was, "Relax, there are no symbols 
here to confuse you. Enjoy yourself I" I may add there are no stories and no 



94/SILENCE 



psychological problems. There is simply an activity of movement, sound, 
and light. The costumes are all simple in order that you may see the 
movement. 

The movement is the movement of the body. It is here that Mr. Cun- 
ningham focuses his choreographic attention, not on the facial muscles. In 
daily life people customarily observe faces and hand gestures, translating 
what they see into psychological terms. Here, however, we are in the pres- 
ence of a dance which utilizes the entire body, requiring for its enjoyment 
the use of your faculty of kinesthetic sympathy. It is this faculty we employ 
when, seeing the flight of birds, we ourselves, by identification, fly up, glide, 
and soar. 

The activity of movement, sound, and light, we believe, is expressive, 
but what it expresses is determined by each one of you— who is right, as 
Pirandello's title has it, if he thinks he is. 

The novelty of our work derives therefore from our having moved 
away from simply private human concerns towards the world of nature 
and society of which all of us are a part. Our intention is to affirm this life, 
not to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, 
but simply to wake up to the very life were living, which is so excellent 
once one gets one's mind and one's desires out of its way and lets it act of 
its own accord. 



When Vera Williams first noticed that I was interested in wild mushrooms, she told her children 
not to touch any of them because they were all deadly poisonous. A few days later she bought a steak 
at Martino's and decided to serve it smothered with mushrooms. When she started to cook the mushrooms, 
the children all stopped whatever they were doing and watched her attentively. When she served dinner, 
they all burst into tears. 

One day I went to the dentist. Over the radio they said it was the hottest day of the year. However, 
I was wearing a jacket, because going to a doctor has always struck me as a somewhat formal occasion. 
In the midst of his work, Dr. Heyman stopped and said, "Why don't you take your jacket off?" I said, 
"I have a hole in my shirt and that's why I have my jacket on." He said, "Well, I have a hole in my sock, 
and, if you like, 111 take my shoes off." 

FOUR STATEMENTS ON THE DANCE/95 



This piece appeared in Dance Magazine, November 1957. The two pages were 
given me in dummy form by the editors. The number of words was given by 
chance operations. Imperfections in the sheets of paper upon which I worked 
gave the position in space of the fragments of text. That position is different in 
this printing, for it is the result of working on two other sheets of paper, of 
another size and having their own differently placed imperfections. 



2 Pages, 122 Words on Music and Dance 



To obtain the value 

of a sound, a movement, 

measure from zero. ( Pay A bird flies 

attention to what it is, 

just as it is. ) 



Slavery is abolished. 



the woods 
A sound has no legs to stand on. 



The world is teeming: anything can 
happen. 



96/SILENCE 



sound 



movement 



Points in 




time, in 


love 


space 


mirth 




the heroic 




wonder 


The emotions 


tranquillity 




fear 




anger 




sorrow 




disgust 



Activities which are different 
happen in a time which is a space: 
are each central, original. 



are in the audience. 

The telephone rings. 
Each person is in the best seat. 



Is there a glass of water? 



War begins at any moment. 



lights 



inaction? 



Each now is the time, the space. 



Are eyes open? 



Where the bird flies, fly. 



ears? 



FOUR STATEMENTS ON THE DANCE/97 



This article, completed in February of 1961, was published in Metro (Milan) in 
May. It may be read in whole or in part; any sections of it may be skipped, 
what remains may be read in any order. The style of printing here employed is 
not essential. Any of the sections may be printed directly over any of the others, 
and the spaces between paragraphs may be varied in any manner. The words in 
italics are either quotations from Rauschenberg or titles of his works. 

To Whom It May Concern: 
The white paintings came 
first; my silent piece 
came later. 

—l.C. 



ON ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, ARTIST, AND HIS WORK 

Conversation was difficult and correspondence virtually ceased. ( Not because of 
the mails, which continued.) People spoke of messages, perhaps because they'd 
not heard from one another for a long time. Art flourished. 

The goat. No weeds. Virtuosity with ease. Does his head have a bed in it? 
Beauty. His hands and his feet, fingers and toes long-jointed, are astonishing. They 
certify his work. And the signature is nowhere to be seen. The paintings were 
thrown into the river after the exhibition. What is the nature of Art when it reaches 
the Sea? 

Beauty is now underfoot wherever we take the trouble to look. (This is an 
American discovery. ) Is when Rauschenberg looks an idea? Rather it is an enter- 
tainment in which to celebrate unfixity. Why did he make black paintings, then 
white ones (coming up out of the South), red, gold ones (the gold ones were 
Christmas presents), ones of many colors, ones with objects attached? Why did he 
make sculptures with rocks suspended? Talented? 

I know he put the paint on the tires. And he unrolled the paper on the city 
street. But which one of us drove the car? 



98/SILENCE 



As the paintings changed the printed material became as much of a subject 
as the paint ( I began using newsprint in my work ) causing changes of focus: A third 
palette. There is no poor subject (Any incentive to paint is as good as any other.). 
Dante is an incentive, providing multiplicity, as useful as a chicken or an old shirt. 
The atmosphere is such that everything is seen clearly, even in the dark night or 
when thumbing through an out-of-date newspaper or poem. This subject is un- 
avoidable (A canvas is never empty.); it fills an empty canvas. And if, to continue 
history, newspapers are pasted onto the canvas and on one another and black paints 
are applied, the subject looms up in several different places at once like magic to 
produce the painting. If you don't see it, you probably need a pair of glasses. But 
there is a vast difference between one oculist and another, and when it is a question 
of losing eyesight the best thing to do is to go to the best oculist (i.e., the best 
painter: he'll fix you up ) . Ideas are not necessary. It is more useful to avoid having 
one, certainly avoid having several (leads to inactivity). Is Gloria V. a subject or 
an idea? Then, tell us: How many times was she married and what do you do when 
she divorces you? 



There are three panels taller than they are wide fixed together to make a single 
rectangle wider than it is tall. Across the whole thing is a series of colored photos, 
some wider than tall, some taller than wide, fragments of posters, some of them 
obscured by paint. Underneath these, cutting the total in half, is a series of rec- 
tangular color swatches, all taller than wide. Above, bridging two of the panels, 
is a dark blue rectangle. Below and slightly out of line with the blue one, since it is 
on one panel only, is a gray rectangle with a drawing on it about halfway up. There 
are other things, but mostly attached to these two "roads" which cross: off to the 
left and below the swatches is a drawing on a rectangle on a rectangle on a rectangle 
(its situation is that of a farm on the outskirts of a mainstreet town). This is not a 
composition. It is a place where things are, as on a table or on a town seen from 
the air: any one of them could be removed and another come into its place through 
circumstances analogous to birth and death, travel, housecleaning, or cluttering. 
He is not saying; he is painting. (What is Rauschenberg saying?) The message is 
conveyed by dirt which, mixed with an adhesive, sticks to itself and to the canvas 

ON ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, ARTIST, AND HIS WORK/99 



upon which he places it. Crumbling and responding to changes in weather, the 
dirt unceasingly does my thinking. He regrets we do not see the paint while it's 
dripping. 



Rauschenberg is continually being offered scraps of this and that, odds and 
ends his friends run across, since it strikes them: This is something he could use 
in a painting. Nine times out of ten it turns out he has no use for it. Say it's some- 
thing close to something he once found useful, and so could be recognized as his. 
Well, then, as a matter of course, his poetry has moved without one's knowing 
where it's gone to. He changes what goes on, on a canvas, but he does not change 
how canvas is used for paintings— that is, stretched flat to make rectangular surfaces 
which may be hung on a wall. These he uses singly, joined together, or placed in a 
symmetry so obvious as not to attract interest (nothing special). We know two 
ways to unfocus attention: symmetry is one of them; the other is the over-all where 
each small part is a sample of what you find elsewhere. In either case, there is at 
least the possibility of looking anywhere, not just where someone arranged you 
should. You are then free to deal with your freedom just as the artist dealt with 
his, not in the same way but, nevertheless, originally. This thing, he says, duplication 
of images, that is symmetry. All it means is that, looking closely, we see as it was 
everything is in chaos still. 



To change the subject: "Art is the imitation of nature in her manner of opera- 
tion." Or a net. 



1 OO/SILENCE 



So somebody has talent? So what? Dime a dozen. And were overpopulated. 
Actually we have more food than we have people and more art. We've gotten to 
the point of burning food. When will we begin to burn our art? The door is never 
locked. Rauschenberg walks in. No one home. He paints a new painting over the 
old one. Is there a talent then to keep the two, the one above, the one below? What 
a plight (it's no more serious than that) we're in! It's a joy in fact to begin over 
again. In preparation he erases the De Kooning. 

Is the door locked? No, it's open as usual. Certainly Rauschenberg has tech- 
niques. But the ones he has he disuses, using those he hasn't. I must say he never 
forces a situation. He is like that butcher whose knife never became dull simply 
because he cut with it in such a way that it never encountered an obstacle. Modern 
art has no need for technique. (We are in the glory of not knowing what we're 
doing. ) So technique, not having to do with the painting, has to do with who's look- 
ing and who painted. People. Technique is : how are the people? Not how well did 
they do it, but, as they were saying, frailty. ( He says— and is he speaking of tech- 
nique?— "What do you want, a declaration of love? I take responsibility for com- 
petence and hope to have made something hazardous with which we may try 
ourselves.") It is a question, then, of seeing in the dark, not slipping over things 
visually. Now that Rauschenberg has made a painting with radios in it, does that 
mean that even without radios, I must go on listening even while I'm looking, 
everything at once, in order not to be run over? 



Would we have preferred a pig with an apple in its mouth? That too, on 
occasion, is a message and requires a blessing. These are the feelings Rauschenberg 
gives us: love, wonder, laughter, heroism (I accept), fear, sorrow, anger, disgust, 
tranquillity. 

There is no more subject in a combine than there is in a page from a news- 
paper. Each thing that is there is a subject. It is a situation involving multiplicity. 

ON ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, ARTIST, AND HIS WORK/101 



( It is no reflection on the weather that such-and-such a government sent a note to 
another.) (And the three radios of the radio combine, turned on, which provides 
the subject?) Say there was a message. How would it be received? And what if it 
wasn't? Over and over again I've found it impossible to memorize Rauschenberg's 
paintings. I keep asking, "Have you changed it?" And then noticing while I'm 
looking it changes. I look out the window and see the icicles. There, dripping water 
is frozen into object. The icicles all go down. Winter more than the others is the 
season of quiescence. There is no dripping when the paint is squeezed from a tube. 
But there is the same acceptance of what happens and no tendency towards gesture 
or arrangement. This changes the notion of what is beautiful. By fixing papers to 
canvas and then painting with black paint, black became infinite and previously 
unnoticed. 



Hallelujah! The blind can see again. Blind to what he has seen so that seeing 
this time is as though first seeing. How is it that one experiences this, for example, 
with the two Eisenhower pictures which for all intents and purposes are the same? 
(A duplication containing duplications.) Everything is so much the same, one 
becomes acutely aware of the differences, and quickly. And where, as here, the 
intention is unchanging, it is clear that the differences are unintentional, as unin- 
tended as they were in the white paintings where nothing was done. Out of seeing, 
do I move into poetry? And is this a poetry in which Eisenhower could have dis- 
appeared and the Mona Lisa taken his place? I think so but I do not see so. There 
is no doubt about which way is up. In any case our feet are on the ground. Painting's 
place is on the wall— painting's place, that is, in process. When I showed him a 
photograph of one of Rauschenberg's paintings, he said, "If I had a painting, I'd 
want to be sure it would stay the way it is; this one is a collage and would change." 
But Rauschenberg is practical. He goes along with things just as they are. Just as 
he knows it goes on a wall and not any which way, but right side up, so he knows, 
as he is, it is changing (which one more quickly? and the pyramids change). When 
possible, and by various means, he gives it a push: holes through which one sees 
behind the canvas the wall to which it is committed; the reflective surfaces chang- 
ing what is seen by means of what is happening; lights going on and off; and the 
radios. The white paintings were airports for the lights, shadows, and particles. 



102/SILENCE 



Now in a metal box attached by a rope, the history kept by means of drawings of 
what was taken away and put in its place, of a painting constantly changing. 



There is in Rauschenberg, between him and what he picks up to use, the quality 
of encounter. For the first time. If, as happens, there is a series of paintings con- 
taining such and such a material, it is as though the encounter was extended into a 
visit on the part of the stranger (who is divine). (In this way societies uninformed 
by artists coagulate their experiences into modes of communication in order to 
make mistakes. ) Shortly the stranger leaves, leaving the door open. 



Having made the empty canvases (A canvas is never empty.), Rauschenberg 
became the giver of gifts. Gifts, unexpected and unnecessary, are ways of saying 
Yes to how it is, a holiday. The gifts he gives are not picked up in distant lands but 
are things we already have (with exceptions, of course: I needed a goat and the 
other stuffed birds, since I don't have any, and I needed an attic in order to go 
through the family things [since we moved away, the relatives write to say: Do you 
still want them?] ) , and so we are converted to the enjoyment of our possessions. 
Converted from what? From wanting what we don't have, art as pained struggle. 
Setting out one day for a birthday party, I noticed the streets were full of presents. 
Were he saying something in particular, he would have to focus the painting; as it 
is he simply focuses himself, and everything, a pair of socks, is appropriate, appro- 
priate to poetry, a poetry of infinite possibilities. It did not occur to me to ask him 
why he chose Dante as a project for illustration. Perhaps it is because we've had 
it around so long so close to us without bothering to put it to use, which becomes its 
meaning. It involved a stay in Florida and at night, looking for help, a walk through 
land infested with rattlesnakes. Also slipping on a pier, gashing his shin, hanging, 
his foot caught, not calling for help. The technique consists in having a plan: Lay 

ON ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, ARTIST, AND HIS WORK/103 



out stretcher on floor match markings and join. Three stretchers with the canvas on 
them no doubt already stretched. Fulfilling this plan put the canvas in direct contact 
with the floor, the ground thereby activated. This is pure conjecture on my part but 
would work. More important is to know exactly the size of the door and techniques 
for getting a canvas out of the studio. ( Combines don't roll up. ) Anything beyond 
that size must be suitably segmented. 



I remember the show of the black paintings in North Carolina. Quickly! They 
have become masterpieces. 



Is it true that anything can be changed, seen in any light, and is not destroyed 
by the action of shadows? Then you won't mind when I interrupt you while you're 
working? 



104/SILENCE 



The message changes in the combine-drawings, made with pencil, water color, 
and photographic transfer: (a) the work is done on a table, not on a wall; (b) there 
is no oil paint; (c) because of a + b, no dripping holds the surface in one plane; 
( d) there is not always the joining of rectangles since when there is, it acts as remi- 
niscence of stretchers; ( e ) the outlines appear vague as in water or air ( our feet are 
off the ground); (f) I imagine being upside down; (g) the pencil lines scan the 
images transferred from photographs; (h) it seems like many television sets work- 
ing simultaneously all tuned differently. How to respond to this message? (And I 
remember the one in Dante with the outline of the toes of his foot above, the 
changed position and another message, the paper absorbing the color and spread- 
ing it through its wet tissues. ) He has removed the why of asking why and you can 
read it at home or in a library. ( These others are poems too. ) Perhaps because of 
the change in gravity (Monument 1958), the project arose of illustrating a book. 
(A book can be read at a table; did it fall on the floor?) As for me, I'm not so 
inclined to read poetry as I am one way or another to get myself a television set, 
sitting up nights looking. 



Perhaps after all there is no message. In that case one is saved the trouble of 
having to reply. As the lady said, "Well, if it isn't art, then I like it." Some (a) were 
made to hang on a wall, others ( b ) to be in a room, still others ( a -f b ) . 



By now we must have gotten the message. It couldn't have been more explicit. 
Do you understand this idea?: Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be 
made. (I try to act in that gap between the two.) The nothingness in between is 
where for no reason at all every practical thing that one actually takes the time to 
do so stirs up the dregs that they're no longer sitting as we thought on the bottom. 
All you need do is stretch canvas, make markings, and join. You have then turned on 

ON ROBERT R A U S C H E N B E RG, ARTIST, AND HIS WORK/105 



the switch that distinguishes man, his ability to change his mind: If you do not 
change your mind about something when you confront a picture you have not seen 
before, you are either a stubborn fool or the painting is not very good. Is there any 
need before we go to bed to recite the history of the changes and will we in that 
bed be murdered? And how will our dreams, if we manage to go to sleep, suggest 
the next practical step? Which would you say it was: wild, or elegant, and why? 
Now as I come to the end of my rope, I noticed the color is incredibly beautiful. And 
that embossed box. 



I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater 
freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing. 



( I cannot remember the name of the device made of glass which has inside it 
a delicately balanced mechanism which revolves in response to infrared rays.) 
Rauschenberg made a painting combining in it two of these devices. The painting 
was excited when anybody came near it. Belonging to friends in the country, it was 
destroyed by a cat. If he takes a subject, what does he take? And what does he 
combine with it, once he's put it in place? It's like looking out a window. (But our 
windows have become electronic: everything moves through the point where our 
vision is focused; wait long enough and you'll get the Asiatic panoply. ) Poetry is 
free-wheeling. You get its impact by thumbing through any of the mass media. The 
last time I saw him, Rauschenberg showed me a combine-drawing, and while I was 



1 06/ SILENCE 



looking he was speaking and instead of hearing (I was looking) I just got the 
general idea that this was an autobiographical drawing. A self-portrait with mul- 
tiplicity and the largest unobstructed area given to the white painting, the one 
made of four stretchers, two above, two below, all four of equal size. Into this, 
structure and all, anything goes. The structure was not the point. But it was prac- 
tical: you could actually see that everything was happening without anything's 
being done. Before such emptiness, you just wait to see what you will see. Is 
Rauschenberg's mind then empty, the way the white canvases are? Does that mean 
whatever enters it has room? ( In, of course, the gap between art and life. ) And 
since his eyes are connected to his mind, he can see what he looks at because his 
head is clear, uncluttered? That must be the case, for only in a mind (twentieth) 
that had room for it could Dante (thirteenth-fourteenth) have come in and gone 
out. What next? The one with the box changed by the people who look at it. 



What do images do? Do they illustrate? ( It was a New Year's Eve party in the 
country and one of them had written a philosophical book and was searching for a 
picture that would illustrate a particular point but was having difficulty. Another 
was knitting, following the rules from a book she had in front of her. The rest were 
talking, trying to be helpful. The suggestion was made that the picture in the 
knitting book would illustrate the point. On examination it was found that every- 
thing on the page was relevant, including the number. ) But do we not already 
have too much to look at? ( Generosity. ) Left to myself, I would be perfectly con- 
tented with black pictures, providing Rauschenberg had painted them. (I had one, 
but unfortunately the new room has a slanting ceiling and besides the wall isn't 
long enough for it. These are the problems that have no solution, such as the suit 
wearing out.) But going along, I see I'm changing: color's not so bad after all. (I 
must have been annoyed by the games of balance and what-not they played with 
it. ) One of the simplest ideas we get is the one we get when someone is weeping. 
Duchamp was in a rocking chair. I was weeping. Years later but in the same part 
of town and for more or less the same reason, Rauschenberg was weeping. 



ON ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, ARTIST, AND HIS WORK/107 



(The white paintings caught whatever fell on them; why did I not look at 
them with my magnifying glass? Only because I didn't yet have one? Do you agree 
with the statement: After all, nature is better than art?) Where does beauty begin 
and where does it end? Where it ends is where the artist begins. In this way we 
get our navigation done for us. If you hear that Rauschenberg has painted a new 
painting, the wisest thing to do is to drop everything and manage one way or 
another to see it. That's how to learn the way to use your eyes, sunup the next 
day. If I were teaching, would I say Caution Watch Your Step or Throw yourself 
in where the fish are thickest? Of course, there are objects. Who said there weren't? 
The thing is, we get the point more quickly when we realize it is we looking 
rather than that we may not be seeing it. (Why do all the people who are not 
artists seem to be more intelligent? ) And object is fact, not symbol. If any thinking 
is going to take place, it has to come out from inside the Mason jar which is sus- 
pended in Talisman, or from the center of the rose (is it red?) or the eyes of the 
pitcher (looks like something out of a movie) or— the farther one goes in this 
direction the more one sees nothing is in the foreground: each minute point is at 
the center. Did this happen by means of rectangles ( the picture is "cut" through 
the middle)? Or would it happen given this point of view? Not ideas but facts. 



M. C. Richards and David Tudor invited several friends to dinner. I was there and it was a pleasure. 
After dinner we were sitting around talking. David Tudor began doing some paper work in a corner, 
perhaps something to do with music, though I'm not sure. After a while there was a pause in the con- 
versation, and someone said to David Tudor, "Why don't you join the party?" He said, "I haven't left it. 
This is how I keep you entertained." 

1 08/SILENCE 



This lecture was printed in Incontri Musicali, August 1959. There are jour 
measures in each line and twelve lines in each unit of the rhythmic structure. 
There are forty-eight such units, each having forty-eight measures. The 
whole is divided into five large parts, in the proportion 7, 6, 14, 14, 7. 
The forty-eight measures of each unit are likewise so divided. The text is 
printed in four columns to facilitate a rhythmic reading. Each line is to be 
read across the page from left to right, not down the columns in sequence. 
This should not he done in an artificial manner (which might result from an 
attempt to he too strictly faithful to the position of the words on the page), hut 
with the rubato which one uses in everyday speech. 



LECTURE ON NOTHING 

I am here , and there is nothing to say 

If among you are 

those who wish to get somewhere , let them leave at 

any moment . What we re-quire is 

silence ; but what silence requires 

is that I go on talking 

Give any one thought 

a push : it falls down easily 

; but the pusher and the pushed pro-duce that enter- 

tainment called a dis-cussion 

Shall we have one later ? 



Or 

cussion 
now 
words 
silences 



poetry 



iff 
, we could simply de— cide 

What ever you like 
there are silences 
make help make 



and I am saying it 



as I need it 



not to have a dis- 

But 

and the 

the 



I have nothing to say 



and that is 



This space of time is organized 

We need not fear these silences, — 



TIF 



LECTURE ON NOTHING/109 



we may love them 

talk 

just as I make 
of milk 
and we need the 
empty glass 
moment 



milk 



for I am making it 
a piece of music. 

We need the 

Or again 
into which 



This is a composed 

It is like a glass 

glass 

it is like an 



at any 



anything 
As we go along 
an i-dea may occur in this 



may be poured 

(who knows?) 



or not. 



gard it as something seen 
though from a window 

If across Kansas , 

Arizona 
almost too interesting , 
being interested in spite of himself 

needs the Kansas in him 

nothing on earth , 

It is like an empty glass , 
is it corn ? 

Kansas has this about it: 

and whenever one wishes one may return to it 



talk 

I have no idea 

If one does, 

ny 

momentarily 
while traveling 

then, of course, 

is more 
especially for a New- 
in everything. 



and for a New Yorker 
nothing but wheat 
Does it matter which 
at any instant, 

• 



whether one will 

let it. Re- 

, as 

• 

Kansas 

interesting, 

Yorker who is 

Now he knows he 

Kansas is like 

very refreshing. 

, or 

? 

one may leave it, 



Or you may leave it forever 

for we pos-sess nothing 
is the reali-zation 

Anything 

(since we do not pos-sess it) 



and never return to it 

that we possess 
therefore 
and thus 



at any moment, 

• 

owned it, 

1 10/SILENCE 



We need not destroy the past: 

it might reappear and seem to be 

Would it be a repetition? 

but since we don't, it is free 



and 



and 



Our poetry now 

nothing 

is a delight 

need not fear its loss 

it is gone; 

be the present 

Only if we thought we 

so are we 



and how un-certain it is 



Most anybody knows a-bout the future 



What I am calling poetry 

I myself have called 

nuity of a piece of music. 

when it is necessary , 

interestedness. That is, 

lies in not pos-sessing anything 

presents what happens . 

this form sense is 



Iff 
is often called 
it form 

Continuity 
is a demonstration 
it is a proof 



content. 



today, 



It is the conti- 



of dis- 



that our delight 
Each moment 
How different 
from that which is bound up with 



memory: 


themes 


and secondary themes; 


their struggle; 


their development; 


the climax; 


the recapitulation 


(which is the belief 


that one may 


own one's own 


home) 


But actually, 


unlike the snail 


, we 


carry our homes 


within us, 


which enables us 




iff 

to fly 


or to stay 


» 


to enjoy 


each. 


But beware of 


that which is 


breathtakingly 


beautiful, 


for at any moment 




the telephone 


may ring 


or the airplane 


come down in a 


vacant lot 


* 


A piece of string 


or a sunset 


» 


possessing neither 


» 


each acts 




and the continuity 


happens 


• 


Nothing more 


than nothing 


can be said. 


Hearing 


or making this 


in music 


is not different 


— 


only simpler — 


than living this way 


. 




Simpler, that is , for me, — because it happens 






that I write music 


• 






Iff Iff 




That music is 


simple to make comes from 


one's willingness to ac- 


cept 


the limitations 


of structure. 


Structure is 


simple 


be— cause 


it can be thought out, 


figured out, 


measured 


• 


It is a discipline 


which, 


accepted, 


in return 


accepts whatever 


, even those 


rare moments 


of ecstasy, 


which, as 


sugar loaves train horses, 


train us 


to make what we 


make 


How could I 






LECTURE ON NOTHING/111 



better tell 


what structure 


is 


than simply to 


tell 


about this, 


this talk 


which is 


contained 


within 


a space of time 


approximately 


forty minutes 


long 


? 





w 

That forty minutes has been divided into five large parts, and 

each unit is divided likewise. Subdivision in- 

volving a square root is the only possible subdivision which 

permits this micro-macrocosmic rhythmic structure , 

which I find so acceptable and accepting 

As you see, I can say anything 

It makes very little difference what I say or even how I say it. 

At this par-ticular moment, we are passing through the fourth 

part of a unit which is the second unit in the second large 

part of this talk . It is a little bit like passing through Kansas 

This, now, is the end of that second unit 



Now begins the 



third unit 



HP 
of the second part 



Now the 



second part of that third unit 

Now its third part 



part 
length 



as the third part) 



(which, by the way, 



Now its fourth 
is just the same 



Now the fifth 



and last part 



You have just 
microcosmic 
point of view 
large part, 
nothing 

1 1 2/SILENCE 



UP 
ex-perienced the structure of this talk 

point of view . From a macrocosmic 

we are just passing the halfway point in the second 

The first part was a rather rambling discussion of 

, of form, and continuity 



from a 



when it 


is 


the 


way 


we now 


part 
> 








what it is 


accept 








its limitations 


ideas. 








This one 



need it. This second 

is about structure: how simple it is 

and why we should be w illin g 

Most speeches are full 

doesn't have to have any 



to 
of 



But at any moment an idea 
Then we may enjoy it 

Iff 



may come along 



Structure 


without life 




is dead. 


But Life without 


structure 


is un-seen 




. 


Pure life 


expresses itself 






within 


and through structure 


. 


Each moment 




is absolute, 


alive and sig- 


nificant. 


Blackbirds 




rise from 


a field making a 


sound 


de-licious 




be-yond 


corn-pare 


• 








I heard them 


because 


I ac-cepted 




the limitations 


of an arts 


conference 


in a Virginia 


girls' finishing school, 


which limitations 


allowed me 


quite by accident 




to hear the blackbirds 


as they flew up 


and overhead 




• 


There was a social 


calendar 


and hours for breakfast 


i 


but one day I saw a 


cardinal 


» 


and the same day 


heard a woodpecker. 


I also met 


America's youngest 


college president 


• 


However, 


she has resigned, 




and people say she is 


going into politics 


• 


Let her. 




Why shouldn't she? I also had the 


pleasure 


of hearing an eminent 


music critic 


ex-claim 


that he hoped 


he would live long 


e-nough to i 


see the end 


of this 


craze for Bach. 




A pupil once 


said to me: I 


understand 


what you say 


about 


Beethoven 


and I think 


I agree 


but I have a 




very serious 


question to 


ask you: 


How do you 




feel 


about Bach 


? 


Now we have 


come 




to the end of the 


part 


about structure 




• 

Iff HT 




However, 


it oc-curs 


to me to say more 


about structure 


• 


Specifically 




this: 


We are 


now at 


the be-ginning 


of the third part 


and that part 








LECTURE ON NOTHING/113 



is not the part 
about material, 
clear from that 
as we have seen, 
ginning to get 



devoted to structure. 

But I'm still talking about structure. 

that structure has 

form has no point either, 

nowhere 



It's the part 
It must be 
no point, and, 

Clearly we are be- 



Unless some other i-dea crops up 



a-bout it that is 



all I have 




to say about structure 


Iff 
is it interesting 


Now about 




material: 


It is and it 




isn't 


• 


certain. 




If one is making 


something 


> 




the one making must 


love and be 


the material 




he chooses. 


Otherwise he 


material, 


which is precisely something 


> 


nothing 


that 


was being made; 


or 


himself, 




whereas 


nothing is anonymous 






The technique 


of handling materials 


what structure 


as a 


discipline is on 1 


;he rational level 






a means 


of experiencing 



Iff 

I remember loving sound before I ever 

And so we make our lives 



But one thing is 
which is to be nothing 
patient with 

calls attention to the 
whereas it was 
he calls attention to 

is, on the sense level 



nothing 

took a music lesson 

by what we love 



• 


(Last year 


when I talked here 


I made a short talk. 


That was because 


I was talking 


about something 




; but 


this year 


I am talking 


about nothing 




and 


of course will go on talking 


for a long time 




•) 










The other day a 


pupil said, 


after trying to compose a melody 




using only 


three tones, 


"I 


felt limited 




»» 

• 




Had she 


con-cerned herself 




with the three tones — 


her materials 


— 


she would not 


have felt limited 


» 


nr 
and since materials are without feeling, 


there would not have been 


any limitation. 




It was all in her 


1 1 4/ SILENCE 











mind 


, whereas it be-longed 




in the 


materials 


• 






It became something 


by not being 


nothing; 


it would have been 


nothing by being 


something 


• 






Should one use the 


materials 


characteristic 


of one's time 




? 


Now there's a question 


that ought to get us 




somewhere 


. 




It is an intel- 




lectual question 


* 


I shall answer it 


slowly 




and 


autobiographically 


• 


loving 






I remember as a child 




all the sounds 


i 


even the unprepared 


ones. 




I liked them 


especially 


when there was one at 
A five-finger exercise 


a time 




• 

for one hand was 


full of beauty 


. 






Later on I 


gradually liked 


all the intervals 


• 




As I look back 


I realize that I be-gan liking the octave 


* 




I accepted the 


major and minor 


thirds. 


Perhaps, of all the intervals, 


I liked these thirds 


least 


. 




Through the music of 


Grieg, 

• 


I became passionately 


fond 


of the fifth 


Or perhaps you could 


call it 


HP 
puppy-dog love 




> 


for the fifth did not make me 


want to write music: 


: it made me want to de- 


vote my life to 


playing the works of Grieg 




. 



I took, like a duck 
seconds, the 

didn't like the sound 
Bach was the 

Asl 
really liked the 
liked Brahms 



When later I heard 

to water, to all the modern intervals: 

tritone, and the fourth 

I liked Bach too a-bout this time 

of the thirds and sixths, 
way many things 

keep on re-membering, 

thirds, and this explains 



W 



modern music, 
the sevenths, 



the 



but I 
What I admired in 

went together 

I see that I never 

why I never really 



LECTURE ON NOTHING/115 



Modern music 

sevenths, 

always, 

all, 



fascinated me with all its modern 

the seconds, the tritone, and the 

every now and then, there was a fifth, 
Sometimes there were single tones, 



and that was a de- 
tervals in modern music that it fascinated 
fascinated by it I de-cided 
first is difficult: 

takes the ear off it 
I was free to hear that a high sound 

low sound even when both are called by the same letter, 

working alone , 



light. 

me rather than that I 
to write it. 
that is, 
However, 



is 



Studying with a 

meaning; 

in their progressions 

I worked at it 

feeling for it 

gressions called 

as to imply 

fool everyone by not 

fooled 

• 

However 



teacher, 

they are not just 

a sound 

Tonality. 



de— ceptive cadences. 

the presence 

landing on it — 
? 

The whole question is 
modern music 

intervals 



I began to feel 

I learned that the 
sounds 

not actually 
I never liked tonality 
Studied it. 
for instance: 
The idea is this: 
of a tone not actually 
land somewhere else. 
Not the ear 
very intellectual 
still fascinated me 
TO 



intervals: the 

fourth and 

and that pleased me 
not intervals at 
There were so many in- 
loved it, and being 
Writing it at 
putting the mind on it 
doing it alone, 
different from a 

After several years of 
lonely. 

intervals have 

but they imply 
present to the ear 

But I never had any 
there are some pro- 

progress in such a way 
present; then 

What is being 
but the mind 






the mind had fixed it 
make one think of 



with all its modern 
have them , 

void having pro-gressions that would 

not actually present to the ear 
did not ap-peal to me 

that the separation of mind and ear had spoiled 

, — that a clean slate was necessary, 

not only contemporary , but "avant-garde." 

They had not been in-tellectualized; 
directly and didn't have to go through any abstraction 

1 1 6/SILENCE 



the 



the 
a- 



But in order to 

so that one had to a- 

sounds that were 

Avoiding 

I began to see 

sounds 

This made me 

I used noises 

ear could hear them 

bout them 



liked intervals. 



I found that I 
I liked noises 



liked noises 
just as much as I had 
TCP 



even more than I 
liked single sounds 



, had been discriminated against 

having been trained to be sentimental, 



I fought 



Noises, too 
and being American, 

for noises. I liked being 



on the side of the 
I got police 
I ever found 
pickup arm 
really shocking, 
half sentimentally 
only 
to be no truth, 

But quiet sounds 
love 

» 

Life, Time and 

I still feel this way 



intellectualization- 
though they are 
not worn out 
new sounds. 



underdog 
per-mission to play sirens. The most amazing noise 

was that produced by means of a coil of wire attached to the 

of a phonograph and then amplified. It was shocking, 

and thunderous . Half intellectually and 

, when the war came a-long, I decided to use 



quiet sounds 
no good, 



or friendship 
values, 
Coca-Cola 



in anything big 
Iff 
were like loneliness 

independent 

but something else is 



There seemed to me 
in society. 



or 



I begin to hear 

the ones I had thought worn out, 

I begin to hear the old sounds 

not worn out 

They are just as 
Thinking had worn them out 



Permanent, I thought 
at least from 
I must say 
happening 
the old sounds 
worn out by 



as 



Obviously, they are 
audible as the 



And i 


f one 


stops thinking aboi 


it them, 
HP 
"If you 




suddenly they are 


fresh 


anc 1 


new. 


think 


you are a ghost 


you will become a 




ghost 


>> 




Thinking the sounds 


worn out 




wore them out 


• 




So you see 


• 
• 




this question 






brings us back 


where we were: 




nowhere 


> 




or, 


if you like 




> 


where 


we are 


• 








I have 


a story: 


"There was once a ] 



man 



LECTURE ON NOTHING/117 



standing on a high elevation. A company of several men who happened to be walking on the road 
noticed from the distance the man standing on the high place and talked among themselves about 
this man. One of them said: He must have lost his favorite animal. Another man said 
: No, it must be his friend whom he is looking for. A third one said: 



cussion 

place where the man 

asked: 

lost your pet animal 



later?) went on until 



He is just enjoying the cool air up there. The three could not 

UP 
(Shall we have one 
was 

O, friend 
? 

The second man asked 
No, sir 



a-gree 



and the dis- 



standing up there 
No, sir, 



? 

either 

the fresh breeze 

I am not 



up there? 



they reached the high 
One of the three 
, have you not 

I have not lost any 
: Have you not lost your friend 

, I have not lost my friend 

The third man asked: Are you not enjoying 
No, sir , 



What, then 



, are you standing up there 

if you say no 
questions ? 

I just stand ." 

no questions, there are no answers 

, then, of course, 

final answer makes the 

, whereas the questions, 

than the answers 



for 

The man on high said 
UP 



to all our 



there are answers 

questions 

up until then, 



bussy 

I take all the tones 
use all the others 
When I was young, 
Now I'm fifty 



how he wrote 
there are, 

people told me: 



If there are 
If there are questions 
, but the 

seem absurd 
seem more intelligent 
Somebody asked De- 
He said: 
don't want, and 



you're fifty years old 



UP 



Here we are now 

More and more 
nowhere. 



of the fourth large part 

Slowly 

we are getting 



music. 

leave out the ones I 
Satie said 
You'll see when 
I've seen nothing 

UP 

at the beginning 
of this talk. 
I have the feeling that we are getting 

, as the talk goes on 



nowhere 



and that is a pleasure 



1 1 8/SILENCE 



only irritating 

> 

fourth large part 



It is not irritating to be where one is 

to think one would like to be somewhere else, 
a little bit after the beginning 

of this talk 
we have the feeling 
nowhere 



Here we are now 



It is 



of the 



pleasure 



of being 
is sleepy 

Here we are now 
third unit 
More and more 
nowhere. 



only irritating 

> 

fourth large part 



More and more 
that I am getting 
Slowly 

slowly 

we are getting 
which will continue 
it is not a pleasure 
if one is irritated 
it is a pleasure 
it is not irritating 
and slowly 

we were nowhere 
we are having 
slowly 



up 



nowhere. 



)• 



the pleasure 
nowhere, 
let him go to sleep 

up 



as the talk goes on 

we have the feeling 
That is a pleasure 
If we are irritated 
Nothing is not a 

but suddenly 
and then more and more 
(and then more and more 
Originally 
and now, again 

If anybody 



of the fourth large part 

Slowly 

we are getting 
It is not irritating 
to think one would like 
a little bit after the 

More and more 
that I am getting 
Slowly 

slowly 

we are getting 



at the beginning 
of this talk. 



of the 



I have the feeling 

nowhere 
to be where one is 

to be somewhere else. 



that we are getting 
as the talk goes on 
and that is a pleasure 



Here we are now 



beginning 

of this talk 

we have the feeling 

nowhere 



of the third unit 



It is 



of the 



as the talk goes on 



W 



nowhere. 



we have the feeling 
That is a pleasure 

LECTURE ON NOTHING/119 





which will continue 


* 


If we are irritated 


> 


it is not a pleasure 


• 


Nothing is not a 


pleasure 


if one is irritated 


> 


but suddenly 


> 


it is a pleasure 


» 


and then more and more 




it is not irritating 


- 


(and then more and more 




and slowly 


)■ 


Originally 




we were nowhere 


> 


and now, again 


> 


we are having 


the pleasure 




of being 


slowly 


nowhere. 


If anybody 


is sleepy 


> 


let him go to sleep 

W 

atth 


• 


Here we are now 




ie beginning of the 


fifth unit 


of the fourth large part 


of this talk. 


More and more 




I have the feeling 


that we are getting 


nowhere. 


Slowly 


> 


as the talk goes on 


» 


we are getting 


nowhere 


and that is a pleasure 


. 


It is not irritating 


to be where one is 


It is 


only irritating 


to think one would like to be somewhere else. 


Here we are now 


> 


a little bit after the 


beginning of the fifth unit of the 


fourth large part 




of this talk 


. 




More and more 


we have the feeling 






that I am getting 


nowhere 


. 




Slowly 


> 
> 


as the talk goes on 


» 


slowly 


we have the feeling 




we are getting 


nowhere. 


That is a pleasure 




which will continue 


. 


If we are irritated 


> 


it is not a pleasure 


. 


Nothing is not a 


pleasure 


if one is irritated 


> 


but suddenly 


» 


it is a pleasure 


> 


and then more and more 




it is not irritating 




(and then more and more 




and slowly 


)• 


Originally 




we were nowhere 


» 


and now, again 


» 


we are having 


the pleasure 




of being 


slowly 


nowhere. 


If anybody 


is sleepy 


» 


let him go to sleep 
UP 


• 


1 20/SILENCE 







Here we are now 

More and more 
nowhere. 



only irritating 
fourth large part 



pleasure 



of being 
is sleepy 

Here we are now 
ninth unit 
More and more 
nowhere. 



only irritating 
fourth large part 



of the fourth large part 

Slowly 

we are getting 
It is not irritating 
to think one would like 
a little bit after the 

More and more 
that I am getting 
Slowly 

slowly 

we are getting 
which will continue 
it is not a pleasure 

if one is irritated 
it is a pleasure 

it is not irritating 
and slowly 

we were nowhere 

we are having 

slowly 



at the middle 
of this talk. 



I have the feeling 

> 

nowhere 
to be where one is 
to be somewhere else, 
middle 
of this talk 
we have the feeling 
nowhere 
> 

» 

nowhere. 



that we are getting 
as the talk goes on 
and that is a pleasure 

It is 
Here we are now 

of the 



)• 



the pleasure 
nowhere, 
let him go to sleep 



as the talk goes on 

we have the feeling 
That is a pleasure 
If we are irritated 
Nothing is not a 

but suddenly 
and then more and more 
(and then more and more 
Originally 
and now, again 

If anybody 



of the fourth large part 

Slowly 

we are getting 
It is not irritating 
to think one would like 
a little bit after the 

More and more 



at the beginning 
of this talk. 



of the 



I have the feeling 

j 

nowhere 
to be where one is 

to be somewhere else. 



that we are getting 
as the talk goes on 
and that is a pleasure 

It is 
Here we are now 

of the 



beginning of the ninth unit 

of this talk 

we have the feeling 

LECTURE ON NOTHING/121 





that I am getting 


nowhere 


. 




Slowly 


> 

Iff 
> 


as the talk goes on 


» 


slowly 


we have the feeling 




we are getting 


nowhere. 


That is a pleasure 




which will continue 


. 


If we are irritated 


> 


it is not a pleasure 


• 


Nothing is not a 


pleasure 


if one is irritated 


> 


but suddenly 


> 


it is a pleasure 


> 


and then more and more 




it is not irritating 




(and then more and more 




and slowly 


)• 


Originally 




we were nowhere 


» 


and now, again 


» 


we are having 


the pleasure 




of being 


slowly 


nowhere. 


If anybody 


is sleepy 


» 


let him go to sleep 
Iff 


• 


Here we are now 




at the beginning of the 


eleventh unit 


of the fourth large part 


of this talk. 


More and more 




I have the feeling 


that we are getting 


nowhere. 


Slowly 


> 


as the talk goes on 


» 


we are getting 


nowhere 


and that is a pleasure 


• 


It is not irritating 


to be where one is 


It is 


only irritating 


to think one would like 


to be somewhere else. 


Here we are now 


» 


a little bit after the 


beginning of the eleventh unit of the 


fourth large part 




of this talk 


• 




More and more 


we have the feeling 






that I am getting 


nowhere 


. 




Slowly 


> 
Iff 

> 


as the talk goes on 


> 


slowly 


we have the feeling 




we are getting 


nowhere. 


That is a pleasure 




which will continue 


. 


If we are irritated 


t 


it is not a pleasure 


. 


Nothing is not a 


pleasure 


if one is irritated 


> 


but suddenly 


» 


it is a pleasure 


> 


and then more and more 




it is not irritating 




(and then more and more 



122/SILENCE 





and slowly 


)• 


Originally 




we were nowhere 


» 


and now, again 


1 


we are having 


the pleasure 




of being 


slowly 


nowhere. 


If anybody 


is sleepy 


» 


let him go to sleep 
HP 

attl 


• 


Here we are now 




le beginning of the thir- 


teenth unit 


of the fourth large part 


of this talk. 


More and more 




I have the feeling 


that we are getting 


nowhere. 


Slowly 


» 


as the talk goes on 


f 


we are getting 


nowhere 


and that is a pleasure 


• 


It is not irritating 


to be where one is 


It is 


only irritating 


to think one would like to be somewhere else. 


Here we are now 


» 


a little bit after the 


beginning of the thir-teenth unit of the 


fourth large part 




of this talk 


. 




More and more 


we have the feeling 






that I am getting 


nowhere 


. 




Slowly 


> 

TIP 

f 


as the talk goes on 


» 


slowly 


we have the feeling 




we are getting 


nowhere. 


That is a pleasure 




which will continue 


• 


If we are irritated 


» 


it is not a pleasure 


. 


Nothing is not a 


pleasure 


if one is irritated 


> 


but suddenly 


> 


it is a pleasure 


> 


and then more and more 




it is not irritating 




(and then more and more 




and slowly 


)■ 


Originally 




we were nowhere 


> 


and now, again 


* 


we are having 


the pleasure 




of being 


slowly 


nowhere. 


If anybody 


is sleepy 


» 


let him go to sleep 

TIP TIP 


• 



LECTURE ON NOTHING/123 



iff 



Iff 



That is finished 



It was a pleasure 



now. 

And now , 

"Read me that part a-gain where I disin-herit everybody 

The twelve-tone row 

method is a control of each 

note. There is too much there there 

There is not enough of nothing in it 

like a bridge from nowhere to 

anyone may go on it : 

, corn or wheat 

? I thought there were eighty-eight tones 

You can quarter them too 

iff 
If it were feet , would it be a two-tone row 

? Or can we fly from here to where 

1 24/SILENCE 



this is a pleasure. 

is a method; a 

single 

A structure is 
nowhere and 

noises or tones 
Does it matter which 



9 


I have nothing 


against the twelve-tone row; 


but it is a 


method, 


not a structure 


. 


We really do need a structure 


> 


so we can see 


we are nowhere 


• 


Much of the music 


I love 


uses the twelve— tone row 


» 


but that is not why I 


love it. 


I love it 


for no reason 


. 




I love it 


for suddenly 


I am nowhere 


• 


(My own music does that 


quickly for me 







And it seems to me 


I could 


listen forever 


to Japanese 


shakuhachi music 


Iff 


or the Navajo 


Yeibitchai 




Or I could sit or 


stand 


near Richard Lippold's 


Full Moon 




any length of time 


• 






Chinese bronzes 


> — 


how I love them 


• 






But those beauties 


» 


which others have made, 


tend to stir up 


the need to possess 




and I know 


I possess 


nothing 


. 






Record collections 


> 






that is not music 


• 

iff 




The phonograph 


is a thing, - 


not a musical 


instrument 


A thing leads to other things, 


whereas a 


musical instrument 


leads to nothing 


• 








Would you like to join 


a society called 


Capitalists Inc. 


? 


(Just so no one would 


think we were 


Communists.) 


Anyone joining 


automatically 


becomes president 


• 


To join 


you must show 


you've destroyed 


at least one hundred 


records 


or, in the case of 


tape, 


one sound mirror 


• 




To imagine you 


own 


any piece of music 




is to miss 


the whole point 


• 


There is no point 


or the point 


is nothing; 


and even 


a long-playing 


record 
iff 

LEG 


is a thing. 






TURE ON NOTHING/1 



A lady from Texas said: I live in Texas 

We have no music in Texas. The reason they've no 

music in Texas is because they have recordings 

in Texas. Remove the records from Texas 

and someone will learn to sing 

Everybody has a song 

which is no song at all : 

it is a process of singing , 

and when you sing , 

you are where you are 

All I know about method is that when I am not working I sometimes 
think I know something, but when I am working, it is quite clear that I know nothing. 

up w 



Afternote to LECTURE ON NOTHING 

In keeping with the thought expressed above that a discussion is nothing more 
than an entertainment, I prepared six answers for the first six questions asked, 
regardless of what they were. In 1949 or '50, when the lecture was first 
delivered (at the Artists' Club as described in the Foreword), there were six 
questions. In 1960, however, when the speech was delivered for the second 
time, the audience got the point after two questions and, not wishing to be 
entertained, refrained from asking anything more. 
The answers are: 

1 . That is a very good question. I should not want to spoil it with an 
answer. 

2. My head wants to ache. 

3. Had you heard Mary a Freund last April in Palermo singing Arnold 
Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, I doubt whether you would ask that 
question. 

4. According to the Farmers' Almanac this is False Spring. 

5. Please repeat the question . . . 
And again . . . 

And again . . . 

6. I have no more answers. 
1 26/SILENCE 



Now giving lecture on Japanese poetry. First 
giving very old Japanese poem, very classical: 

Oh willow tree, 

Why are you so sad, willow tree? 

Maybe baby? 

Now giving nineteenth-century romantic Jap- 
anese poem: 

Oh bird, sitting on willow tree, 

Why are you so sad, bird? 

Maybe baby? 

Now giving up-to-the-minute twentieth-cen- 
tury Japanese poem, very modern: 

Oh stream, flowing past willow tree, 

Why are you so sad, stream? 

Baby? 

I was never psychoanalyzed. I'll tell you how 
it happened. I always had a chip on my shoulder 
about psychoanalysis. I knew the remark of Rilke 
to a friend of his who wanted him to be psycho- 
analyzed. Rilke said, "I'm sure they would re- 
move my devils, but I fear they would offend my 
angels." When I went to the analyst for a kind of 
preliminary meeting, he said, "I'll be able to fix 
you so that you'll write much more music than 
you do now." I said, "Good heavens! I already 
write too much, it seems to me." That promise of 
his put me off. 

And then in the nick of time, Gita Sarabhai 
came from India. She was concerned about the 
influence Western music was having on tradi- 
tional Indian music, and she'd decided to study 
Western music for six months with several teachers 
and then return to India to do what she could to 
preserve the Indian traditions. She studied con- 
temporary music and counterpoint with me. She 
said, "How much do you charge?" I said, "It'll be 
free if you'll also teach me about Indian music." 
We were almost every day together. At the end 



of six months, just before she flew away, she gave 
me the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. It took me a 
year to finish reading it. 

I was on an English boat going from Siracusa 
in Sicily to Tunis in North Africa. I had taken the 
cheapest passage and it was a voyage of two nights 
and one day. We were no sooner out of the har- 
bor than I found that in my class no food was 
served. I sent a note to the captain saying I'd like 
to change to another class. He sent a note back 
saying I could not change and, further, asking 
whether I had been vaccinated. I wrote back that 
I had not been vaccinated and that I didn't intend 
to be. He wrote back that unless I was vaccinated 
I would not be permitted to disembark at Tunis. 
We had meanwhile gotten into a terrific storm. 
The waves were higher than the boat. It was im- 
possible to walk on the deck. The correspondence 
between the captain and myself continued in 
deadlock. In my last note to him, I stated my firm 
intention to get off his boat at the earliest oppor- 
tunity and without being vaccinated. He then 
wrote back that I had been vaccinated, and to 
prove it he sent along a certificate with his 
signature. 

David Tudor and I went to Hilversum in 
Holland to make a recording for the Dutch radio. 
We arrived at the studio early and there was 
some delay. To pass the time, we chatted with 
the engineer who was to work with us. He asked 
me what kind of music he was about to record. 
Since he was a Dutchman I said, "It may remind 
you of the work of Mondrian." 

When the session was finished and the three 
of us were leaving the studio, I asked the engineer 
what he thought of the music we had played. He 
said, "It reminded me of the work of Mondrian." 



LECTURE ON NOTHING/127 



Although it had been prepared some years earlier, this lecture was not printed 
until 1959, when it appeared in It Is, edited by Philip Pavia, with the following 
introduction: 

In the general moving around and talking that followed my Lecture on 
Something (ten years ago at the Club), somebody asked Morton Feldman 
whether he agreed with what I had said about him. He replied, "That's 
not me; that's John." When Pavia recently asked me for a text on the 
occasion of Columbia's issuing a record devoted to Feldman's music, I 
said, "I already have one. Why don't you print it?" 

[In this connection, it may be noted that the empty spaces, omitted in the It Is 
printing but to be encountered below, are representative of silences that were 
a part of the LectureJ 



LECTURE ON SOMETHING 



To bring things up to date, let me say that I am as ever changing, while 
Feldman's music seems more to continue than to change. There never was 
and there is not now in my mind any doubt about its beauty. It is, in fact, 
sometimes too beautiful. The flavor of that beauty, which formerly seemed 
to me to be heroic, strikes me now as erotic (an equal, by no means a 
lesser, flavor). This impression is due, I believe, to Feldman's tendency 
towards tenderness, a tenderness only briefly, and sometimes not at all, 
interrupted by violence. On paper, of course, the graph pieces are as 
heroic as ever; but in rehearsal Feldman does not permit the freedoms he 
writes to become the occasion for license. He insists upon an action 
within the gamut of love, and this produces (to mention only the extreme 
effects) a sensuousness of sound or an atmosphere of devotion. As ever, I 
prefer concerts to records of instrumental music. Let no one imagine that 
in owning a recording he has the music. The very practice of music, and 
Feldman's eminently, is a celebration that we own nothing. 



128/SILENCE 



This is a talk about something and naturally also a talk about 

nothing. About how something and nothing are not opposed to each other 

but need each other to keep on going . It is difficult to 

talk when you have something to say precisely because of the words which 

keep making us say in the way which the words need to 

stick to and not in the Way which we need for living. For instance: 

someone said, "Art should come from within; then it is profound." 

But it seems to me Art goes within, and I don't see the need for "should" or 



'then" or "it" or 



'pro-found." When Art comes from within , which is 

what it was for so long doing, it be— came a thing which seemed to elevate the 

man who made it a-bove those who ob-served it or heard it and the artist was 

considered a genius or given a rating: First, Second, No Good , until 

finally riding in a bus or subway: so proudly he signs his 

work like a manufacturer 

But since everything's changing, art's now going 
in and it is of the utmost importance not to make a thing but rather to make 

nothing. And how is this done? Done by making something 

which then goes in and reminds us of nothing. It is im-portant that this 

something be just something, finitely something; then very 

simply it goes in and becomes infinitely nothing 

It seems we are living. Understanding of what is nourishing 

changing . Of course, it is always changing, 

now it is very clearly changing, so that the people either agree or they don't 



is 
but 
and the 



differences of 

go 

two sides. 

other side it is more 
it's all the same, — 
starting finitely 

• 

mind 

Intersection 
within broad limits 
the responsibility of 



o-pinion are clearer . Just a year or so a- 

everything seemed to be an individual matter. But now there are 

On one side it is that individual matter going on, and on the 

not an individual but everyone which is not to say 

on the contrary there are more differences. That is: 

everything's different but in going in it all becomes the same 



H.C.E. 

when he called 

the first ones 
the composer 



Which is what Morton Feldman 
the music he's now writing 

Feldman speaks of 
that come along. 



had in 



from making 
To accept 
re-gardless 



no sounds, and takes 
He has changed 
to accepting 

whatever comes 
of the consequences 

LECTURE ON SOMETHING / 1 29 



such an individual 
more impressively, 
what, precisely, 
have to do 
separate from it. 



is to be unafraid or 

to be full of that love which 

comes from a sense of at-one-ness with whatever 

This goes to explain what Feldman means 
when he says that he is associated with all of the sounds, 
and so can foresee what will happen 

even though he has not written the particular 

notes down as other composers do 

When a com-poser feels a responsibility to make, rather 
than accept, he e-liminates from the area of possibility 

all those events that do not suggest the at that point in 
time vogue of profund-ity. For he takes himself seriously, 
wishes to be considered great, and he thereby diminishes 

his love and in-creases his fear and concern about 

what people will think 

There are many serious problems confronting 

He must do it better, 
more beautifully, etc. than anybody else . And 

does this, this beautiful profound object, this masterpiece, 

with Life? It has this to do with Life : that it is 

Now we see it and now we don't. When we see it 



we feel better, and when we are away from it, we don't feel so good 



contrast. 

point. 

when traditions exist 

are made pleasing 

forms 



Life seems shabby and chaotic, disordered, 
Let me read a passage from the I-Ching 
"In human affairs aesthetic form 

that strong and abiding 
by a lucid beauty, 

ex-isting in the heavens 



ugly in 

which discusses this 

comes into being 
like mountains 
By contemplating the 
we come to understand 



time and its changing demands . Through contemplation of the 

forms existing in human society it be— comes possible to shape the world 

." And the footnote goes on: "Tranquil beauty: clarity within, 

quiet without . This is the tran-quillity of pure 

contemplation. When desire is silenced and the will comes to rest 

, the world as i-dea becomes manifest . In this aspect the world is beautiful 

and re-moved from the struggle for existence. This is the world of 

Art. However, contemplation alone will not put the 

1 30/SILENCE 



will to rest abso-lutely. It will a-waken again and then 

all the beauty of form will appear to have been only a brief 

moment of exaltation. Hence this is still not the true way of 

redemption. The fire whose light illuminates the mountain 

and makes it pleasing, does not shine far. In the same way 

beautiful form suffices to brighten and throw light upon mat-ters of lesser moment 

But important questions cannot be decided 

in this way . They require greater earnestness 

." Perhaps 

Blythe 

responsibility of the 
for a moment 

and 
The 
just beautiful but also 

not just good, but also evil , not just true, but also an il- 

I remember now that Feldman spoke of shadows, 

the sounds were not sounds but shadows. They are obviously 

that's why they are shadows. Every something is an echo of nothing, 
very much like a piece by Morty Feldman. 

may ob-ject that the sounds that happened were not interesting. 
Next time he hears the piece, it will be different, 



this will make 

in his book 

artist 

let's consider 

what is that 

important question is 

ugly, 

lusion. 

He said that 

sounds; 

Life goes on 

Someone 



understandable 
Haiku: 
is to hide beauty." 
what are the 
greater earnestness 
what is it that is not 



They require 

a statement made by 

"The highest 
Now 

important questions 
that is required 



Let him. 
perhaps 
disastrous. 
And life 
citing, 



not for Feldman. 




sometimes 


ex- 


and so on; 


and 


we live 


and 


with Life. 




on saying that they 





less interesting, perhaps suddenly exciting . Perhaps 

A disaster for whom ? For him, 

the same: always different, 

sometimes boring, sometimes gently pleasing 

what other important questions are there? Than that 

how to do it in a state of accord 

Some people may now be indignant and insist 

control Life. They are the same ones who insist on controlling and judging art 

Why judge? "Judge not lest ye be judged." 

Or we can say: Judge and re-gardless of the consequences 

What is 

meant by Judge and re-gardless of the conse-quences? Simply this: 

Judge in a state of disinterest as to the effects of the judging . A modern 

Cuban composer, Caturla, earned his living as a judge. A 

LECTURE ON S OM ET H I N G / 1 3 1 



man he sentenced 
murdered Caturla. 
was Caturla 
consequences, 
guilt, concern, 
musical term 
last week 

it was argued from a 
This is again 
simply means 



to life imprisonment es-caped from prison 

In that penultimate now-moment before being killed 



and 



in hell or in heaven? Make judgments 

Otherwise no life: Hamlet, 

responsibility. The i-dea, consequences, 
continuity and that produced 
for Feldman spoke of no-continuity, 

rational point of view that no matter what 
a matter of disinterest 
accepting that 



but accept the 

fear, 

suggests 
a discussion 

whereas 

there is continuity, 
and acceptance. No-continuity 

continuity that happens. 



the 



making that particular 


continuity 


that 


This is, of course, 


possible 


but 


for we have found that by 


excluding 




we may have an enormous 


bank account 




one needs critics, 


connoisseurs, 




Dnes, otherwise one gets 


gypped; 




lse with all that fol-de-rol 


9 


no one 



Continuity means the opposite: 

excludes all others. 

not any longer nourishing 

we grow thin inside even though 

outside. For somethings 

judgments, authoritative ones, 

but for nothing one can dis 

loses nothing be-cause nothing 

When nothing is se-curely possessed 

How many are there? They roll up at your feet. How many doors and windows are there 

in it? There is no end to the number of somethings and all of them (without 

exception) are ac-ceptable. If one gets suddenly proud and says 

for one reason or a-nother: I cannot accept this; then the whole freedom 

to accept any of the others vanishes. But if one maintains secure possession 

of nothing (what has been called poverty of spirit), then there is no limit 



is se-curely possessed 

one is free to accept 



any of the somethings. 



to what one may 
possession of things. 
This is what 



freely enjoy. 
There is only 
is meant when one says 
No sounds. 



In this free 
enjoyment. 

No harmony. 
No rhythm. 



No counterpoint. 

there is not one of the somethings 

When this is meant 

and paradoxically free to pick and choose again 

moment Feldman does, will or may. New picking 



en-joyment there is no 

What is possessed is nothing. 
No-continuity. 
No melody. 
That is to say 
that is not acceptable, 
one is in accord with life, 

as at any 
and 



choosing is just like the old picking and choosing except that one 
takes as just another one of the somethings any consequence 



of 



1 32/SILENCE 



having picked and chosen. When in the state of 

nothing, one diminished the something in one: Character. 
At any moment one is free to take on character again, but 

then it is without fear, full of life and love. 

For one's been at the point of the nourishment that sustains in no 
matter what one of the something situations. 

High, middle, low; enter any time within the duration notated; 

this particular timbre. These are the somethings Feldman has 

chosen. They give him and his art character, 

useless in this situation for anyone to say 

is good or not good. Because we are in the direct 

it is. If you don't like it you may choose to 

But if you avoid it that's a pity, because it re- 

very closely, and life and it are essentially a cause for joy. 

People say, sometimes , timidly: I know nothing about music but I know what I 

like. But the important questions are answered by not liking only but disliking 

and accepting equally what one likes and dislikes. Otherwise there is no access to 

the dark night of the soul. At the present time, a twelve-tone time, it is not popular 
to allow the more common garden variety of tonal relations 

These latter are dis-criminated against. Feldman allows them to be if 

they happen to come along. And to ex-plain again, the only reason 

for his being able to allow them is by his acting on the as-sumption that 

no tonal relations ex-ist, meaning 

are acceptable. Let us say in life: No earthquakes 

What happens then ? 



It is quite 
Feldman's work 
situation: 
avoid it. 
sembles life 



all tonal relations 
are permissible. 



All the somethings in the 
world begin to sense their at-one-ness when something happens that reminds them of 

nothing 



way the music 

so that its 

all of the things 



And in this 
of Morton Feldman may actively remind us of nothing 

no-continuity will let us allow our lives with 

that happen in them to be simply what they are and not separate 



LECTURE ON S O M E T H I N G / 1 3 3 



from one another. It is perfectly clear that walking a-long the river is 

one thing and writing music is another and being interrupted 

while writing music is still an-other and a backache too. They 

all go together and it's a continuity that is not a continuity that is being 

clung to or in-sisted upon. The moment it be—comes a 

special continuity of I am composing and nothing else should happen, then the 

rest of life is nothing but a series of interruptions, pleasant or 

catastrophic as the case may be. The truth, however, is that it is 

more like Feldman's music — anything may happen and it all does 

go together. There is no rest of life. Life is one. Without be- 

ginning, without middle, without ending . The concept: beginning 

middle and meaning comes from a sense of self which separates itself 

from what it considers to be the rest of life. But this attitude is untenable unless 

one insists on stopping life and bringing it to an end . That 

thought is in itself an attempt to stop life, for life goes on, indifferent to the 

deaths that are part of its no beginning, no middle, no meaning 

How much better to simply get behind and push! 
To do the opposite is clownish, that is: clinging or trying to force 

life into one's own i-dea of it, of what it should be, is on-ly absurd. The ab- 

surdity comes from the artificiality of it, of not living, but of 

having to have first an idea about how one should do it and then stumblingly 
trying. Falling down on some one of the various banana peels is what we 

have been calling tragedy. Ideas of separateness artificially elevated. The mythological 
and Oriental view of the hero is the one who accepts life 

And so if one should object to calling Feldman a composer, 

one could call him a hero. But we are all heroes, if we accept what 

comes, our inner cheerfulness undis-turbed. If we ac-cept what comes, 

that (again) is what Feldman means by Intersection. Anyone may cross it. 

Here Comes Everybody . The light has turned. Walk on. The 

water is fine. Jump in. Some will refuse, for they see that the 

water is thick with monsters ready to devour them. What they have in 

mind is self-preservation. And what is that self-preservation but 

only a preservation from life? Whereas life without death is no longer life but 

only self-preservation. (This by the way is another reason why recordings are not music 
.) Which do we prefer is, practically speaking, an irrelevant question, 

since life by exercising death settles the matter conclusively for 

1 34/SILENCE 



something but without conclusion for nothing. It is nothing that 

goes on and on without beginning middle or meaning or ending. Something is 

always starting and stopping, rising and falling. The nothing that 

goes on is what Feldman speaks of when he speaks of being sub- 

merged in silence. The ac-ceptance of death 

source of all life. So that listening to this music 

takes as a spring-board the first sound that comes along ; 

something springs us into nothing and out of that nothing a-rises 

next something; etc. like an al-ternating current, 

the silence that ex-tinguishes it. And no silence exists 

with sound. Someone said 

to the performance of Feldman's music 

"That kind of music if you call it music 

in a public hall, because many people do not understand it 

and they start talking or tittering and the result is that you can't 

hear the music be—cause of all these extraneous sounds." Going on, that 

someone said, "The music could be played and possibly appreciated , 

in a home where, not having paid to be entertained, those listening 



reference 
recent recital: 
played 



is the 
one 
the first 
the 
Not one sound fears 
that is not pregnant 
the other day, in 

at Merce Cunningham's 
should not be 



might listen 

out of decorum 

more comfortable and 
»> 

sire for special 



or having it 

in a home it is 
to hear it 
de-scribes the de- 
an ivory tower, 
of keeping the 
one day get out 
and talking) become 



and not have the impulse to titter 

squelch it and be-sides 

quiet: there would be a better chance 

Now what that someone said 

cut-off-from-life conditions: 

But no ivory tower ex-ists, for there is no possibility 

Prince forever within the Palace Walls. He will, willy nilly, 

and seeing that there are sickness and death (tittering 

Buddha. Be-sides at my house, you hear the boat sounds, 

traffic sounds, the neighbors quarreling, the children playing and screaming in the 

hall, and on top of it all the pedals of the piano squeak 
There is no getting a-way from life 

going back to what that someone said: "That kind of music, 

Actually what difference? Words are only noises 

makes little difference . Essentially 

: do you five, or do you in-sist 



the 
the 



Now, going on by 

if you call it music." 
. Which noise 
the question is 
on words? 



If before you live 
Whereas 



you go through a word then there is an indirection, 

we need not go around the barn , 



but 



LECTURE ON SOMET H I N G / 1 3 5 



may go directly in 
"Paid to be entertained 
Life. 

moment 



And then to go on : 

This brings us again 
If at any moment we approach that 

with a pre— conceived idea of what that moment will provide, and if, 



to 



furthermore, we pre-sume that having paid for it makes us safe about it, we simply 






start off on the wrong foot. Let's say for ten years everything 
as we imagined it would and ought, 

the table turns and it doesn't work out 

We buy something to keep 
stolen. We bake a cake and it turns out 



turns out 
Sooner or later 
as we wish it would 



and it is 



sugar was not sugar 
start to work 
what is 

Heroes are being 
the accepting 
will happen 
why it is 



but salt 

than the telephone rings . 
entertainment? And who 

entertained and their nature 
of what comes without preconceived ideas of 
and re-gardless of the consequences, 

so difficult to listen to music 



that the 

I no sooner 

But to continue: 

is being entertained? 
is that of nature: 

what 

This is, by the way, 

we are familiar 



with; memory has acted to keep us a-ware 

next, and so it is almost im-possible 

presence of a well-known 

it happens, and when it does, 

Going on about 
to appreciate 
to hear it without 
at the root of all 
separate from the 



of what will happen 
to remain a-live 
masterpiece. Now and then 

it par-takes of the miraculous 



in the 



of the desire 

rather that that, 

sounds — 

this work is a thing 

with Feldman's music 

of art which is a thing 

nothing 



at the root 
to call it this 
extraneous 



what someone said: 
a piece of music, 
the unavoidable 

this is the idea that 

rest of life, which is not the case 

We are in the presence not of a work 

but of an action which is implicitly 

Nothing has been said 



Nothing is communicated. And there is no use 

intellectual references. No thing in life requires a symbol 

what it is: a visible manifestation 

All somethings equally par-take of that 

But to go on again about someone said: 

And I forgot to mention it before. He said, 

all those silences ?" How do I know 



of symbols 

since it is clearly 
of an invisible nothing. 

life-giving nothing. 
"What?" 
"What about 

when 



or 



136/SILENCE 



LECTURE ON SO MET H I N G / 1 3 7 









We never know when but being cheerful helps . Are there 

other ways than Feldman's? Naturally; something-speaking there are an 

infinite number of ways. How many doors and windows? 

1 38/SILENCE 



I forgot to say 
this isn't a talk about Morton Feldman's music. It's a talk within a rhythmic structure 
and that is why every now and then it is possible to have absolutely 

nothing; the possibility of nothing — 



middles meanings and endings? 
beginnings middles and meanings 



And what is the 

And what is the 
? 



be-ginning of no 
ending of no 



If you let it 
Each something 
When we 
it doesn't drop. 



it supports itself. You don't have to 

is a celebration of the nothing that supports it. 

re-move the world from our shoulders we notice 

Where is the responsibility ? 



Responsibility is to oneself; 

irresponsibility to oneself which is to say 

responsibility to others and things comes a-long 



and the highest form of it is 

the calm acceptance of whatever 



If one adopts this attitude art 

station in which one tries out living; one 



living 

one is living, 
something 
the art; 



is a sort of experimental 
doesn't stop 



when one is occupied making the art, 

that is, for example, now reading 
and nothing, one doesn't stop 

should I be writing 



and when 

a lecture on 

being occupied making 
that 



LECTURE ON SOMETHING/ 1 39 



Of course, I am — and going to the movies 

about nothing or eating an apple: concerto piano, 

and no blame. The continuity that is no continuity 



for-ever; and there is no problem 

With this exception: there 
those things that come from 

and full of pride and self-glory 

as separate from and finer 

on earth . But, actually, 



a-bout accepting 
is great difficulty 
a profound 

assert 
than anything 

where is the 



piano concerto? 

or explaining 

No "should" 

is going on 

whatever. 

in accepting 

inner feeling 

themselves 

else 

difficulty? It is the simplest thing in the world to directly see: this 

is an orange; that is a frog; this is a man being proud; 

is a man thinking another man is proud; etc 

It all goes to-gether and doesn't require that we 

try to improve it or feel our inferiority or superiority to it. Progress is out of the 
question. But inactivity is not what happens. There is always activity 
free from com-pulsion, done from disinterest, 

free to stop brooding and to observe the effects of our actions, 
proud, that pride keeps us from ob-serving 

And what do we observe: the effects of our 

others or on ourselves? On ourselves; 

on us are con-ducive to less separateness, 

more love, we may walk on then regardless 



this 



And we are 
(When we are 
very clearly.) 
actions 
for if the effects 
less fear, 
of the others. 



Out of that lack of regard for the others 
competitive, for as in those silences that 
are confident of each other's 

nervousness, only a sense 



we will not feel 
occur 
friendship, 
of at-one-ness 



the need 
when two people 
there is no 



but it is 



on 



to be 



140/SILENCE 



LECTURE ON S ONIETH I N G / 1 4 1 






1 42/SILENCE 



When going from nothing towards something, 


we have all 




the European history of music and art 


we remember 




and there we can see that this is well done 


but the other is not. 




So-and-so contributed this and that and criteria. 


But now we are 




going from something towards nothing, 


and there is no way 


of saying success or failure since all things 


have equally 


their 


Buddha nature. Being ignorant of that fact 


is the only obstacle 


to 


enlightenment. And being enlightened is not 


some spooky 


un- 


earthly condition. Before studying Zen men are men and mountains 




are mountains. While studying Zen, things get confused. After 




studying Zen men are men and mountains are mountains. 


No 




difference except that one is no longer 


attached; 


now 


and then I have found in dis-cussing 


these ideas 


that 


some people say, "That is all very well, 


but it 


won't 


work for us, for it's Oriental." (Actually 


there is no longer 


a 


question of Orient and Occident. 


All of that is rapidly 


disappearing; as Bucky Fuller is fond of 


pointing out: 




the movement with the wind of the Orient 


and the movement 




against the wind of the Occident meet 


in America 


and 


produce a movement upwards 


into the air — 


the 


space, the silence, the nothing that supports us .) 


And then 




again if any of you are troubled still 


about Orient 


and 


Occident, you can read Eckhart, or Blythe's 


book on 


Zen in 


English literature, or Joe Campbell's books on mythology and philosophy, 




or the books by Alan Watts. And there are naturally 


many others. 




There are books to read, pictures to look at, 


poetry 





LECTURE ON SOMETHING/143 



so nowadays, 

doing, say, 

quite some time.' 

most musicians 

tradition, 

tradition 

in 



to 



are 



to read (cummings for instance), sculpture, architecture, even 

theatre and dance, and now some music too. 

Mostly, right now, there is painting and sculpture, and just as 

formerly when starting to be ab-stract, artists referred 

musical practices to show that what they were doing was valid, 

musicians, to explain what they 

"See, the painters and sculptors have been doing it for 

But we are still at the point where 

are clinging to the complicated torn-up competitive remnants of 

and, furthermore, a tradition that was always a 

of breaking with tradition, and further-more, a tradition that 

its ideas of counterpoint and harmony 
with its own but with all other traditions 



was out of step not only 



I had thought 


of leaving this last section silent, 


but then it turns out 


I have something to say . 


I am after all talking 


about Morton Feldman's music and whether that is right or wrong is 


not to the point. 


I am doing it. Going on doing it. 


And that is the way. 


This morning 


I thought of an image 


that might make clear to 


some of you 


the natural usefulness of Feldman's music. 


It was this: 


do you remember, 


in myth, the hero's encounter 


with the 


shape-shifting 


monster? The way 


the sounds be- 


tween two 


> per-formances shift 


their somethingness 


suggests this. 


Now what does the hero do? 


(You and I 


are the heroes 


and incidentally Morty too.) 


He doesn't 


get frightened 


but simply accepts 


what the sound-shift- 


ing performer happens to do. Eventually the whole mirage disappears. 


And the prize 


or sought-for something 


(that is nothing) 


is obtained. 


And that something- generating nothing 


that is obtained is 


that each 


something is really what it is 


, and so 


what happens? 


Live happily ever after. 


And do we 


need 


a celebration? We cannot 


a-void it 


since 


each thing in life is continually 


just that 


. 


Now what if I'm wrong? 


Shall I telephone 


Joe Campbell 


and ask him the meaning 


of shape-shifters 


? 


(I can't do it for a nickel any more.) 


He would know the 


answer. 


However, that is not the point. 


The point is 


144/SILENCE 







this. 

other life-and-death 

Out of Meister 

I take the following 

first to settle how 



This is a situation which is no more and no less serious than any 
situation. What is needed is irresponsibility. 

Eckhart's sermon, God made the poor for the rich, 

: "If, going to some place, we 

to put the front foot down, we should never get there, 

had to plan out every brush-mark before he made 

your principles and keep 

that is the way." 



If the painter 

first he would not paint at all. Follow 

straight on; you will come to the right place, 

The other day I had a letter 

He said, "We try not to think too much 

from day to day, pushing our in-vestigations 



had 



his 



from Pierre Boulez. 
of the war; we live 

as far as possible 



Coming back 
of a 

emphatic 
and nothing 
keep on going, 
any something) 
nothing) 
still invades 
whether 



to Eckhart, 
brilliant conclusion, 
conclusion 
and how 
as Eckhart 
"has no escape 
"flee she up 
her, energizing 



for the sake 
a tonic 
to this talk 
they need 

says, "Earth" 
from heaven:" 
or flee she down 
her, fructifying 



by the way 
and dominant 
about something 
each other 
(that is 
(that is 
heaven 
her, 



to 



for her weal or 



for her woe." 



np 1? up 



LECTURE ON SOMET H I N G / 1 45 



Before writing this piece, I composed 34' 46.776" for Two Pianists. These 
piano parts shared the same numerical rhythmic structure but were not fixed 
together by means of a score. They were mobile with respect to one another. 
In each case the structural units became different in actual time-length by use 
of a factor obtained by chance operations. Having been asked to speak at the 
Composers' Concourse in London (October 1954), I decided to prepare for that 
occasion a lecture using the same structure, thus permitting the playing of 
music during the delivery of the speech. The second pianist's part had turned 
out to be 31' 57.9864". When I applied the chance factor to the numerical 
rhythmic structure in the case of the speech, I obtained 39' 16.95". However, 
when the text was completed, I found I was unable to perform it within that 
time-length. I needed more time. I made experiments, reading long lines as 
rapidly as I could. The result was two seconds for each line, 45' for the entire 
piece. Not all the text can be read comfortably even at this speed, but 
one can still try. 



45' FOR A SPEAKER 



The piano parts had included noises and whistles in addition to piano and 
prepared piano tones. For the speaker, I made a list of noises and gestures. By 
means of chance operations, determining which noise or gesture and when 
it was to be made, I added these to the text. 

Similarly, the relative loudness of delivery was varied: soft, normal, loud. 
(These volumes are indicated in the text below by typographical means: italics 
for soft, roman for normal, and boldface italics for loud.) 

The text itself was composed using previously written lectures together 
with new material. Answers to the following questions were all obtained by 
chance operations: 

1 . Is there speech or silence? 

2. And for how long? 

3. If speech, is it old material or new? 

4. If old, from which lecture and what part of it? 

5. If new, on which of the following 32 subjects? 

Structure (emptiness) (in general no structure) 

Quotations 

Time (and rhythm) 

Sound (and noises) 

Silence 

Chance 

Technique in general (no technique) 

Other arts (shadows, etc.: incidental sounds) 



1 46/SILENCE 



Relationship (synchronicittf) 
Music (work of art) 
Magnetic tape 
Prepared piano 
Form 

Theatre (music work of life) 
Listening as ignorance 
Focus 

Square root and flexibility 
Asymmetry of probability 
Imperfections technique 
Coins technique 
Mobility-immobility 
Multiple loud-speakers 
Non-dualism 
Error 

Psychology (expressivity) (inspiration) 
Vertical (forced) relations 
Horizontal (forced) relations 
Mobility of parts (this work) 
The string pieces 
The carillon music 
Activity of performance 
Purpose 
6. Is the material, new or old, to be measured in terms of words or syllables? 
And how many? 

The piece for two pianists had been commissioned for performance at 
Donaueschingen in September 1954. I finished it just in time to catch the boat 
for Rotterdam with David Tudor. My plan was to write the speech while 
crossing the Atlantic. The boat, however, met with a collision twelve hours 
after leaving Manhattan. We slowly returned to New York. With the help of 
other passengers having obligations abroad, we organized the flight of all the 
ship's passengers to Amsterdam. 45' for a Speaker was written on trains and in 
hotels and restaurants during the course of a European tour. Returning to 
America later that fall, I composed 26' 1.1499" for a String Player (incorporating 
in it short pieces written two years before) and, later, 27' 10.554" for a 
Percussionist. All these compositions, including the speech, may be performed 
alone or together in any combination. 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 47 



O'OO' 



"Lo and behold the horse turns into 

a prince, who, except for the 

acquiescence of the hero 

would have had to remain a 

miserable shaggy nag." 
10" I have noticed something else about 

Christian Wolffs music. All you can 

do is 

suddenly listen 

in the same way 

that, when you catch cold, 
20" all you can do is 

suddenly 

sneeze. 

Unfortunately — 

European harmony. 



30' 



40" 






50" Where it is: 

within us 
but 

like an empty glass 
into which 



148/SILENCE 



l'OO" at any moment 

anything 

may be poured 

just something finitely something 

or even 

to be able to drink 
10" a glass of water. 

Unless some other idea 

crops up about it, 

that is all I have to say about structure. 

My present 

way 
20" of composing s 

involved with the 

observation 

of imperfections in the paper 

on which I happen 

to be 
30" writing. 

( Snore ) 
About the 

prepared piano: each prepared piano is 

prepared differently. Objects are placed 

between the strings and the piano sound, 

to all of these various characteristics, he 
40" is transformed with respect to all of its characteristics. 

Music is an oversimplification of the situation 

we actually are in. An ear alone 

is not a being; music is one 

part of theatre. "Focus" is what aspects one's 

noticing. Theatre is all the various things 
50" going on at the same time. I have noticed 

that music is liveliest for me when listening for instance 

doesn't distract me from seeing. One should 

take music very naturally. No 

technique 

at all: 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 49 



2'00" only technique 

worth having. 

I remember 

being asked 

what I 

thought about 
10" technique. 

And at 

first I 

had 

nothing 

to say. 
20" Several days 

later I 

realized 

I have no time 

for technique 

because 
30" I must 

always be making 

one: any 

technique can 

be discovered 

after any technique 
40" is forgotten. 

Another technique 

I've devised 

is derived 

from the 

I-Ching method 
50" of obtaining 

oracles. 

And a 

principle 

(also I-Ching) 

which interested me 



(Lean on Elbow) 









150/SILENCE 



3'00" ( not at all any more ) 
is that which is 
called 
"mobility •immobility". 



10" 

(Hiss) 
Time, 

which is the title of this piece, 

( so many minutes 
20" so many seconds ) , 

is what we 

and sounds 

happen in. Whether early or late: 

in it. 

It is not a question of counting. 
30" Our poetry now 

is the realization 

that we possess nothing. 

Anything therefore ( Slap table ) 

is a delight 

( since we do not possess it ) 
40" and thus need ( Cough ) 

not fear. 

This composition involves a flexible use of 

the number 10,000: that 

istosayl00xl00(sq.rt.). 

The actual time-lengths 
50" are changing. This 

work has no score. It should be abolished. "A statement concerning the 

arts is no statement concerning the arts." It 

consists of single parts. Any of them may 

be played together or eliminated and at any 

time. "To me teaching is an expedient, but I do 

45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 51 



4'00" not teach external signs." Like a long book if a 

long book is like a mobile. "The ignorant be- 
cause of their attachment to existence seize on signified 

or signifying." No beginning no ending. Harmony, so-called, 

is a forced abstract vertical relation which blots Out the spontaneous 

transmitting nature of each of the sounds forced into it. It is 
10" artificial and unrealistic. Form, then, is not something 

off in the distance in solitary confinement: 

It is right here right now. Since it is 

something we say about past actions, 
it is wise 

to drop it. 
20" This, too, giving himself 

6- his quest up to the aimless rolling 

of a metal ball, the hero, unquestioningly does. 

They proceed thus, by chance, by no will 

of their own passing 

safely 
30" through many perilous situations. 

I begin to hear the old sounds, the ones 

I had thought worn out, worn out 

by intellectualization, I begin to hear 

the old sounds as though they are not 

worn out. Silence, like music, is non- 
40" existent. There always are sounds. That 

is to say if one is alive to hear them. 

Obviously they are not. Whether I make them 

or not there are always sounds to be heard and 

all of them are excellent. 

We bake a cake ( Brush Hair ) 

50" and 

it turns 

out 

that the sugar 

was not sugar 

but salt 



1 52/SILENCE 



5'00" Are you deaf 

( by nature, choice, desire ) 

or can you hear 

( externals, tympani, labyrinths in whack ) ? 



10" 



20" 



40" 



By no means. 



( Blow nose ) 

30" The twelve-tone row is 

a method. A method 
is a control of each single note. 
Their development, the climax, 
the recapitulation 
which is the belief one may own one's own home. 



'There is too much there there.' 



There is not enough of 
nothing in it. 

So far, I have written two parts for a pianist. 
50" Either part can be played alone or they can both 

be played together. Each piano is prepared differently 
although, as a matter of focus, the parts could be 
played without bothering to prepare the piano 
or pianos. If prepared, then, generally, 
the preparations will be altered in 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 53 



6'00" the course 
of the 
performance. 



10" The principle called mobility-immobility is this : 

every thing is changing 

but while some things 

are changing 

others 

are not. 
20" 

Eventually those 

that were 

not 
30" 

changing 

begin suddenly 

to change 
40" 

et vice versa ad infinitum. 

A technique to be useful ( skillful, that is ) 

must be such that it fails 
50" to control 

the elements subjected to it. Otherwise 

it is apt to become unclear. 

And listening is best 

in a state of mental 

emptiness. 

154/SILENCE 






7'00" Composers are spoken of as having 
ears for music which generally 
means that nothing presented 
to their ears can be heard by them. 
Their ears are walled in 
with sounds 
10" of their own imagination. 



Of five aspects 



observe 

20" two. 

The highest purpose is to have no purpose 
at all. This puts one in accord with nature 
in her manner of operation. If someone comes 
along and asks why?, there are answers. 

30" However there is a story I have found very help- 
ful. What's so interesting about 
technique anyway? What if there are twelve tones in a 
row? What row? This seeing of cause and effect 
is not emphasized but instead one makes an 
identification with what is here and now. He 

40" then spoke of two qualities . Unimpededness and Inter- 
penetration. 



The relationship of things happening 
at the same time is spontaneous 
and irrepressible. 
50" It is you yourself 

in the form you have 

that instant taken. 

To stop and figure it out 

takes 

time. 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/155 



8'00" 

The only thing, 

pardon me, 

that I do not find. 
10" 

The preparation of 

the pianos 

is also 

determined by chance. 

The various materials 
20" that exist 

are placed in the 

following categories: 

P meaning plastics, bone, glass, etc., 

M meaning metal, 

C meaning cloth, fibre, rubber, 
30" W meaning wood, paper, 

X meaning other materials, special circumstances, 

free choices etc. 



Coins are then tossed. 
40" 

Form's not the same twice: 






50" Sonatas 



Fugues 

That two or 



1 56/SILENCE 



9'00" more things happen 

at the same time 

is their relation. 

The beginning of 

this work in progress 

was not a 
10" part for a pianist, 

but, curiously enough, 

six short parts 

no one of them 

lasting much more 

than a minute, 
20" for a string-player, 

that is, a four-strings-player. 



Surely things happening 

at different times are also 
30" related. 

If it needed to be clear, magnetic tape 

makes it perfectly so, 

that we are not in a twelve-tone 

or any other discrete situation. 

The reason I am presently working 
40" with imperfections in paper is this : 

I am thus able to 

designate 

certain aspects of sound 

as though they were in a field, 

which 
50" of course 

they are. 



The sounds that had accidentally occurred 

while it 

was being played were in 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 57 



lO'OO" no sense an interruption. 
More and 
more 

I have the feeling 
that we are getting nowhere. 

10" 

"Not wondering am I right or 
doing something wrong." 
The preparation changes that occur 
during a performance are 
a) simple change of position 
20" b ) total or partial addition of objects 
c) total or partial subtraction. 

Nothing has been said about 
Bach or Beethoven. 

30" We are the oldest (it makes the silence) 
at having our air-way of knowing 
nowness. 

Years ago I asked myself 

"Why do I write music?" 
40" An Indian musician told me the 

traditional answer in India was 

"To sober the mind and thus make 

it susceptible to divine influences." 

Same answer is given by some old 

English composer. Consider this non-dualistically. 
50" 

"He goes by me; I see him not. He passes 
on; but I perceive him not." These pieces 
take into consideration the physical 
action of playing an instrument. 



1 58/SILENCE 



ll'OO" You won't find this in the books. 

"Why do you not do as I do? Letting 

go of your thoughts 

as though 

they were 

the cold ashes of a 
10" long 

dead fire?" 

What has taken the place of the mobility-immobility principle 

now that I am no longer interested in it? Three coins 

tossed six times yield a hexagram of which 

there are sixty-four. In this way one can establish 
20" which of sixty-four possibilities obtains. And changes. 

What better technique than to leave 

no traces? To determine the number of 

imperfections in a given space, coins are tossed. 

That number of spots is then potentially active. 

Subsequent tosses determine which are actually active. 
30" Tables are arranged referring to tempi, the number 

of superimpositions, that is to say number of things 

that can go on at once, sounds & silences, durations, 

loudnesses, accents. Sounds together (suffice it to say). 

Structure is of no importance, 

however, I go on having it by chance 
40" to determine first the relative probability 

of the three, and then to determine which 

of the three happens in the world 

for studying music. 

It doesn't seem to me to affect anything 

that happens in it. I am speaking, of course, 
50" about a time structure. It simply 

allows anything to happen 

in it. 

What I am calling poetry is often called 

content. I myself have called it 

form. 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/159 



12'00" It is the continuity of a 
piece of music. 
Continuity today 
when it is necessary. 

A fugue is a more complicated game; but 
10" it can be broken up by a single sound, 
say, from a fire engine. 



20' 



(Cough) 



Now 



(Laugh) 



30" getting sleepy & so on. 

Very frequently no one knows that 

contemporary music is or could be 

art. 

He simply thinks it was irritating. ( Clap ) 

Irritating one way or another 
40" that is to say 

keeping us from ossifying. 

It may be objected that from this point 

of view anything goes. Actually 

anything does go, — but only when 

nothing is taken as the basis. In an utter emptiness 
50" anything can take place. 

The feeling we are 

getting nowhere 



1 60/SILENCE 



13'00" that is a pleasure 

which will continue. Why? 

The way to test a modern painting is this : If 

it is not destroyed by the action of 

shadows it is genuine oil painting. 
10" A cough or a baby crying will not 

ruin a good piece of modern music. 

This is 's Truth. As contemporary music 

goes on changing in the way I am changing it 

what will be done is to more & more completely liberate sounds. 

Of course you do know structure is the division 
20" of whatever into parts. Last year when I talked 

here I made a short talk. That was because I 

was talking about something; but this year I 

am talking about nothing and of course 

will go on. Magnetic tape music makes it clear we 

are in 
30" totality 

actively 



40' 



Upaya. 



Let your ears send a 
message of surprise or perplexity. That's the Way. 
Was asked: "Dr. Suzuki, what is the difference between 
men are men & mountains are mountains before studying Zen 

& men are men & mountains are mountains after studying Zen?" It is not a question of 
50" going in to oneself or out to the world. It is 

rather a condition of fluency that's in and out. 
Need I quote Blake? Certainly not. Spots are spots 
and skill's needed to turn them to the point 
of practicality. 

45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 61 



WOO" Tape music requires multiple loud-speakers. 

And it seems to me I could listen forever to 
Japanese shakuhachi music or the Navajo 
Yeibitchai or I could sit or stand 
near Richard Lippold's "Full Moon" 
10" any length of time. 



40' 



But those beauties — 

Formerly for me 



time-length was a constant. Now it, too, 
20" like everything else, changes. 



Beginning of the 

third unit 
30" 

of the fourth 



large part. 



Yes it is. Masterpieces & 
geniuses go together and when, by running from 
one to the other, we make life safer than it 
actually is, we're apt never to know the dangers 
of contemporary music. When I wrote the Imaginary Landscape 
50" for twelve radios, it was not for the purpose of 
shock or as a joke but rather to increase the 
unpredictability already inherent in the situation 
through the tossing of coins. Chance, 

to be precise, is a leap, provides a leap out 
of reach of one's own grasp of oneself. Once 



1 62/SILENCE 



15'00" done, forgotten. One thing to do with time 

is this: Measure it. (Slap table) 

"Cultivate in yourself a grand similarity 
with the chaos of the surrounding ether; un- 
loose your mind, set your spirit free. Be 
still as if you had no soul. Every one returns 
10" to its root, & does not know. If they knew, they 

would be leaving it." Structure. Given a number 
of actually active points, they are an aggregate, a 
constellation, they can move about among themselves 
and it becomes necessary to classify the kinds 
of aggregates, say constant and again intermittent. 



20' 



30* 



i 



40" 



50" 



(Cough) 



One can hear a sound. 



I wrote 
some music for carillon for Mary Carolyn Richards using differently 
shaped scraps of paper folded and small holes cut in them 
at the points of folding. Then used these as 
stencils at points in time-space I-Ching determined. 



If you are interested you can read a detailed 

description of it that will appear 

in the forthcoming issue of trans/formation. 



When I first tossed coins 
I sometimes thought: I hope such ir such will turn up. 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 63 



16'00' 



'Earth's no escape from Heaven. 



10" 



How can we speak of error when it is 
understood "psychology never again"? It should 
be clear from what I am saying that one's one. 
Counterpoint is the same proposition as harmony 

20" except that it is more insidious. I noticed 
in 1938 that some young people were 
still interested in it. "Greater earnestness 
is required if one is going to solve the 
really important problems." 

My point is this: 

30" various techniques can go together all at the 
same time. Therefore this work, I am using 
the word progress with which in connection, 
has no organizing technique supporting it. 



Giving up counterpoint 
40" 

one gets superimposition 



and, of course, 

a little counterpoint comes in of its own 
50" accord. 

How I wouldn't know. 



1 64/SILENCE 



17'00" The best thing to do about counterpoint is what 
Schoenbergdid: Teach it. 



30" 



40" 



50" 



( Hold up hand, gargle ) 



I am still really 
thoroughly puzzled by this way of composing 

10" by observing imperfections in paper. It is 
this being thoroughly puzzled that makes 
it possible for me to work. I am puzzled 
by hearing music well played too. 

If I'm not puzzled it 
wasn't well played. Hopelessly incompre- 

20" hensible. While studying music things get 
a little confused. Sounds are no longer 
just sounds, but are letters: ABC D EF G. 



At the end of the journey when success 
is almost in view: 



I know nothing. All I can do 
is say what strikes me 
as especially 
changing 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/165 



18'00" in 

contemporary 
music. 

Unfortunately, European 
thinking has brought it about that actual 
things that happen such as suddenly 
10" listening or suddenly sneezing 
are not 
considered profound. 

Not just tones, noises too! What 
is 

the physical action 
20" involved 

in playing an instrument? Yes 



For instance, 
now, my focus involves very little: a lecture 

30" on music : my music. But it is not a 
lecture, nor is it music; it is, of neces- 
sity, theatre: What else? If I choose, 
as I do, 
music, 
I get theatre, that, that is, I get that 

40" too. Not just this, the two. 



50" Art as art is order or expression or integration 
of these. It is a light, the Chinese say, but 
there is darkness. What is now unheard-of 
is an eight-loud-speaker situation: to be in 
the center of transmission. Sounds coming 
from every direction. After eight give me sixteen. 



166/SILENCE 



19W 



10" 



Where is the best position for audition? 
The corner where you are! It is understood 
that everything is clean: there is no dirt. 
"Then why are you always taking baths?" 
"Just a dip: No why!" For me it is a matter 
of getting up and daily, unless commitments. 

That is finished now 



20" 



it was a pleasure 



And now 



Just the same only 
somewhat as though you had your feet a 
little off the ground. Now, at the beginning, 
before studying music, men are men & sounds 

30" are sounds; this causes some hesitation on the 
hero's part but he finally acquiesces. 

One of them said: He must have lost 
his favorite animal. Another man said: No, 
it must be his friend. "Do you only take 
the position 

40" of doing nothing, & things 
will 

of themselves 
become 

transformed." Think for 

a moment about sound how it has pitch, 

50" loudness, timbre and duration and how 
silence which is its nonexistent opposite 
has only duration. Duration structure. 



Error is drawing a straight line between 
anticipation of what should happen and 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/167 



20'00" what actually happens. What actually 
happens is however in a total not 
linear situation and is responsible 
generally. Therefore error is a fiction, has 
no 
reality 

10" in fact. 

Errorless music is written by not giving 
a thought to cause and effect. 
Any other 

kind of music always has mistakes in it. 
In other words there is no 

20" split 

between spirit and matter. 

And to realize this one has only suddenly 

to awake to the fact. 



This makes possible the writing of such 
30" durations as 1/7 + 1/3 + 3/5, all fractions 

of a quarter. This brings 

about an 

emphasis on uniqueness 

so that two nearly the same 

durations can each be uniquely itself 
40" just as 

two leaves, however much of the same tree 

are not 

identical. If there is time 

I will tell about my visit 

to the anechoic chamber 
50" at Harvard. It was not 

silent. Two sounds: one 

high, one low. The privileged tones 

that remain are arranged in 

modes or scales or nowadays rows 

& an abstract process begins called 



(Cough) 
(Lean on elbow) 



168/SILENCE 



21'00" composition. Express an idea. 



10' 



The only structure 
which permits of natural activity is one so 
flexible as not to be a structure; I write 
in order to hear; never do I hear and 
then write what I hear. Inspiration is not 
a special occasion. 



After studying 
music men are men and sounds are 
sounds. And subtract: That is to say, at 
20" the beginning one can 
hear 
a 

sound 
and tell 



30" 



40" In the direct situation: it is 



If you don't like it you may 
choose 
to avoid it 
50" but what 

silence requires isn't it. 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/169 



22'00" 



What I think & what I feel can be 
my inspiration but it is then also my 
pair of blinders. To see one must go 
beyond the imagination and for that 
one must stand absolutely still as though 
10" in the center of a leap. 



20" 



30" Several 

stories occur to me that I should like to interpolate (in 
the same way, by the way, that while I am talking 
the telephone keeps ringing and then contemporary 
conversation takes place instead of this particular 
way of preparing a lecture). 

40" It is high 
or low 



has a certain timbre 

50" and loudness. 

I will not disturb by my concern the structure 
of anything that 
is going to be acting; to 
act is miracle and needs everything and 
every me out of the way. An error is simply a 



170/SILENCE 



23'00" failure to adjust immediately from a preconception 
to an actuality. 



However, it occurs to me 
to say more about 
10" structure. 

Specifically this: 
We are now 
at the beginning. 

( Blow nose, rub eyes ) 

20" Or not 

And it isn't 

a human being or something 

30" to look at; it is high or low- 
has a certain timbre & loudness, 



lasts a certain length of time. 



40" End. 

It is necessary to see that there is not only a sharp 
distinction to be made between composing and listening 
but that although all things are different it is 
not their differences which are to be our concern 
but rather their uniquenesses and their infinite 

50" play of interpenetration with themselves and with 
us. 



There are three categories of noises 

45' FOR A SPEAKER/171 



24'00" in the two parts for two pianists: those produced in- 
side the piano construction, outside the same and 
accessory noises, whistles, percussions, etc. 

Reading music is for musicologists. There is no 
straight line to be drawn between notes 
10" and sounds. 



20" 

Vertically in 

the same 

space 

any 

range 
30" will 

appear. 



It was originally for me a matter of flexibility 
by means of changing and not changing 
tempi. The matter reduces itself however 

40" to time which is short or long. And that 
to a process of multiplication using a 
variety of multiplicands. Communication 
if it is 

required is a way of calling 
attention to one's own psychology. 

50" If permitted, it takes place of its own 

accord, 

is 

for all the world 

inevitable. 



1 72/SILENCE 



25'00" 

If it were the 
same purpose as when it has to do with another leaf 
it would be a coincidence, imitation of nature 
from which each leaf should hold on to the 
complete rule which would be free because it 
10" adds "in her manner of operation." Then it will 
not be of its own unique position in space 
uniqueness, plagiarism of result, having a 
particular suchness, but active from 
"before operations begin." ( Is eoctremely 
close to 
20" being 
here 
and 
now.) (Clap) 

So that listening one takes as a spring- 
30" board the first sound that comes along; 

the first something springs us into nothing and 
out of that nothing arises the next something; 
etc. like an alternating current. Not one 
sound fears the silence that extinguishes it 
But if you avoid it, that's a pity, because 
40" it resembles life very closely & life and it 
are essentially a cause for joy. People say, 
sometimes, 
timidly. 

Organized 
50" ways of predicting the weather say for instance it is in 
all of its acoustical details. For a calculated 
theatrical activity I would say offhand that 
the minimum number of necessary actions going on 
at once is five. Bright people can clear up 
rather quickly perplexity arising from lower numbers. 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/173 



26'00" Modern intervals : but in order to have 

them the mind had fixed it so that one had to 
avoid having progressions that would make one 
think of sounds that were not actually 
present to the ear. 

10" 

He is most utterly indebted, not one who 
struggles to force his idea? and who would 
have had to remain, I have noticed. 
Calculated actions that are to go on together 
need not have been composed in the same 

20" way. One runs the risk of falling into 
a marasm of idea if one goes on 
composing without discovering. Turn on several 
radios at once. There again one has a 
multiple loud-speaker system. Besides 
actually being in space, the mind no longer 

30" can function as A B C. 



Theatre takes place 
all the time wherever one is and art simply 
40" facilitates persuading one this is the case. 

So that this ignorance I speak of is not losing 
sensitivic responsiveness, on the contrary. It 
is a question of when: now. "Flee she 
up or flee she down." It acts in 

50" such a 
way 

that one can "hear through" a piece of 
music just as one can "see through." 
Echoes, breaking, varying its speed, and 
synchronized. Skillful means has a good 



174/SILENCE 



27'00" deal to do with multiple division of process. 
And here for instance we begin to be in 
a state of immobility. Anyone can 
see the desirability of mobility. Had I had 
nothing to say, it would have been different. All it 
is now is what it is : faster and slower. 
10" It is the 

space between the loud-speakers that is to be considered: 
From a desire for clarity, great. 



20" We carry our homes 

within us 

which enables us to fly 
30" 

Each moment presents what happens. I 

derived the method I use for writing music 

40" by tossing coins 

from the method used in the Book of Changes. 
It may be objected that from this point of view 
anything goes. 

50" Actually, anything does go but only when 
nothing is taken as the basis. 
In an utter emptiness 
anything can take place. And 

needless to say, 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/175 



28'00" each sound is unique ( had accidentally occurred while it was being played ) 
and is not informed 
about European history and theory: 
Keeping one's mind 
on the emptiness, 
on the space 
10" one can see anything can be in it, is, as 
a matter of fact, in it. 



Were in no sense an interruption. 
I have noticed 
20" I needed a way 
Something else 

This causes some hesitation 

hero would have had to remain 
30" now knows he is most 

asks the hero to kill him. 

Three kinds of them. It was by means of 

words we became subservient. The central 

point is everywhere receiving and transmitting. What 

is passivity? Only one monk in the monastery the oldest one wrote a poem 
40" but he stayed up night and day deliberating on it. The other monks didn't try 

because they were certain the oldest one would win. When his poem 

finally came out, it said: Continuity takes place of its own 

accord and things do go on at the same time. 

All of this is correct and true: there is no con- 
cern necessary for, say, intonation, counterpoint, 
50" scales, going to and coming from; and, then, when? 

An abstract process begins called composition. That 

is: a composer 

uses the sounds to express an idea: 

What then 

are you standing up there for, if you 



176/SILENCE 



29W' say 



10" 



No 

to all of our questions? 

The man on high said, I just stand 

If there are no questions. 



This means for me knowing more 

and 
20" more not what I. 

If it is 

on paper, it is graphic: calligraphy; 

if you can hear and see it, it is. 

There are no answers. Then, of course, 

there are answers but the final 
30" answer makes the questions 

seem absurd 

whereas the questions up until then 

seem more intelligent than the 

answers. Somebody asked Debussy 

Have you not lost your friend? 
40" 

No, sir, I have not lost my friend 

either. 

Is it 

interesting? It is and it isn't. But 

one thing is certain. They are with 
50" respect to counterpoint melody 

harmony rhythm and any other 

musical methods, pointless. 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/177 



30'00" 



All that is necessary is an empty 
space of time and letting it act in its magnetic way. 
Eventually there will be so much in it that 
whistles. In order to apply it to all of these various characteristics 
he necessarily reduces it to numbers. He has also found a math- 

10" ematical way of making a correspondence between rows. I remember 
as a child loving all the sounds even the unprepared ones; I liked them 
especially when itself in the jaws cheeks and tongue 
and the commentary says "The most super- 
ficial way of trying to influence others is through talk 
that has nothing real behind it. The 

20" influence produced by such mere tongue- 
wagging must necessarily remain insignificant." 



"I believe that one can arrive 

30" at directing the phenomenon of the automatism of 
Chance which I mistrust as a f acility which 
is not absolutely necessary. For, in the end, 
in interpolations and interferences between 
different rows ( when one of them passes 
from time-lengths to pitches, at the 

40" same time that another passes from 
intensities to attacks, etc. ) there is 
already a sufficiency of the unknown." 



50" ( Diminishes his love and increases his fear 
and concern about what people will think. ) 



(Bang fist on table) 



178/SILENCE 



31'00" 

There is all the 



time in the world for studying 
music, 
10" 



but for living there is scarcely 

any time at all. 
20" 

For living takes place 

each instant. 

30" 



40" Unimpeded. 



50" 



(Yawn) 



There are two great dangers for 
magnetic tape: one is music ( all the 
history and thinking about it) ; and the other 
is feeling obliged to have an instrument. 

45' FOR A SPEAKER/179 



32'00" One is Pacific 231 1954 and the other: 
organ music. 

If you are interested you can 



read a detailed description of it. 



10" 



If there are 
ten things to do and I only do two of them, focus 
have changed. In his ear, where he will find a metal 
ball, to toss it on the road, in front of them, so that 
20" as the horse goes on to say, we may be led 
by it. This too giving himself. 

Is there anything 
else to say about structure? 

Yes, it goes on 
30" supporting everything: its only difficulty 
lies where struggle to support is already 



(Touch nose and ears; click) 



in process. Fearing what? 

40" Any kind of paper will do for seeing spots 
in it. 

When one gets around to copying on a 
second sheet what was given by a 
first it becomes clear. 
50" 

What? 



1 80/SILENCE 



33'00" Magnetic 

tape as being all-interesting can disappear. 

There are rumors of machines and cards 

Let us move however for unpredictability 
10" 

A structure is like a bridge from 

nowhere 

20" 



( Lean on elbow ) 



If something with respect to something 
else happens sooner or later everything is different 
but essentially nothing of any permanent 
importance has happened. I am talking 
30" & contemporary music is changing. Like life 

it changes. If it were not changing it would be dead. 

That is why chance enters for me 
so largely into my means which 
are skillful. It is at the point 

40" of potentiality. 

(Yawn) 
I am 
working now to work without charts, without 
any support in total space. I see now 
by many slow transitions, one of which 

50" is tempo like streams (varying & not 
varying ) that as long as one discrim- 
inates as I formerly 
did problems re- 
main. Each one of us is thinking his own thoughts 
his own experience & each experience is changing & while we 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 81 



34'00" are thinking ( to get yourself in such a state of 
confusion that you think that a sound is 
not something to hear but rather something to look at) 
I am happy about all the experiences I 
have had with the prepared piano; for one thing 
it showed me how different two pianos are from one another 
10" and music (so-called) 

makes us think 

two pianos are the same. It isn't true. 



20" 



( Hold up watch [to mike] ) 



30" 



It is tossed out. 



40' 



50' 






It just happened that the series 
of numbers which are at the basis of this 
work add up to 100 x 100 which is 
10,000. This is pleasing, momentarily: The world, 



1 82/SILENCE 



35'00" the 10,000 things. But the title is simply 
minutes and seconds. Question to ask you: 
How do you need to cautiously proceed 
in dualistic terms? 

AB 

Just as going from 

10" here to Egypt is a single trip but a 
more or less complex series of 
experiences or just as Chinese 
characters are some written with one 
stroke but others with two or several 
or many And not 

20" in the way we need for living. For 
instance: someone said Art should 
come from overhead. There was 
a social calendar and hours 
for breakfast but one day I 
saw a cardinal and the same 

30" day heard a woodpecker. I 
also met Meister Eckhart. Of 
course Kansas. Arizona is more 
interesting. 



40" have nothing to say and I am saying it 
and that is poetry. 



It is no longer a case of moving along 

50" stepping stones ( scales of any degree, 

series of no matter what ) , but one can 
move or just appear to, at any 
point in this total space, long enough 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 83 



36'00" to see the end of this craze for Bach. A 
pupil once said to me: I understand 
what you say about Beethoven & I 
think I agree but I have a very 
serious question to ask you: How 
do you feel about Bach? 



10" 



Now we have come to the end of the 
part about structure. 



That two or more 
20" things happen at the same time is 

It is entirely possible for something to 

their relationship: Synchronicity. That 
Break for instance 

means at the center moving out in all 
30" 

directions and then time is clearly 

Should one stop and mend it? 

luminous. It could not be easily otherwise. 

go wrong. And machines are never synchronous 
40" not even the synchronous ones. If 
you need several things at once, use 
one as the basis, and one motor. 



50" 



(Lean, cough) 



To befit 
be the present. Would it be a 

repetition? Only if we thought we 
owned it, but since we don't, it 
is free 8t so are we. Most 






anybody knows about the future and ( "No" of hand in air, lass sound ) 



1 84/SILENCE 



37'00" how uncertain it is. 

A sound is a sound. 

To realize this : one has to put a stop 
to studying music. 

10" The most enlivening thing 

about magnetic tape is this : whether we actually do it or not, everything 

we do do, say what we're doing, is affected, radically, 

by it. 

Rhythm is not arithmetic. 

And so is this unfinished work: so far for two pianists, 
20" string-players, lecturer 

Lines of demarcation are O.K. 

when they have to do with potentiality. 

It must be clearly understood they have 

nothing. A sound accomplishes nothing: 

without it life would not last out the 
30" instant. It is only irritating to 

think one would like to be somewhere 

else. Here we are now. 



40" It becomes 

gradually clear to us dull-witted 
musicians that interpenetration 
means that each one of these 
most honored ones of all 
is moving out in all directions. 

50" Penetrating & being penetrated no 

matter what the time. 



Research would 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 85 



38'00" then take place in the field of music 
as it takes place normally in other 
fields. 



10" 



20" 



Energizing, whether for her weal or for her 
woe. 



Testing pictures: 
can they support action of shadows? 



I have 
been satisfied for some time with one to 
sixty-four; there is no way of telling how 
long this will continue. I could go back 
30" to two or: 



One loud-speaker is insufficient and so 
are two or three or four: five is 
40" when it seems to me to begin. What begins 
is our inability to comprehend, "that on the 
contrary chance ought to be very controlled. 

In using tables in general, or a series of tables, I 
believe one can 
50" arrive at direct" 

Form 
is what interests everyone and fortunately 
it is wherever you are and there is 
no place where it isn't. Highest truth, 
that is. 



1 86/SILENCE 






39'00" 



Eventually everything will be happening 
at once: nothing behind a screen unless a screen happens to be 
in front. It will increasingly be a thump instead of 
10" a bang. The thing to do is to gather up one's 
ability to respond and go on at varying speeds. 
Following, of course, the general outlines of the 
Christian life. I myself tend to think of catching trains 
more than Christianity. 



20" 



Insisting on stimulating activity, though 



Without a multiple loud-speaker system, all 

becomes music and submissiveness. But, 
30" fortunately the piano is there and one can 

always prepare it in a different way. 

Otherwise it would become an instrument. 
It is like, as 

Artaud said, a disease. No avoiding. And 

not having an idea about it. 
40" 

The thing 

to do is to keep the head alert but 

empty. Things come to pass, arising 

and disappearing. There can then be no 

consideration of error. Things are always going 
50" wrong. 

(Lean on elbow) 



( Whistle three times ) 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 87 



40W 



10" 



We re apt never to know 



but 
something else is 



happening: I am getting nowhere slowly 
as the talk goes on slowly 
we have the feeling we're getting nowhere; that 
is a pleasure which will continue if 
we are irritated with whatever. This goes 
20" to explain what he means when he says that 

he is associated with all of the sounds & so can foresee 
what will happen even though he has not written the 
particular notes down at room temperature as other composers do. 



30' 



And I have noticed something else about most anyone's 
music, that can be accomplished to increase the unpredictability 
already inherent in the situation: 

40" The control must be at one point only and so 
placed that it has no effect on anything that 
happens: A technique which results in no technique, etc. 
Of course the answer is time and since 
we have them, chronometers, I mean, use 
them; or you may leave it forever & never 

50" return. Play my piece for bells. Whether I hear it 
or not is of no consequence : but until someone 
does, music is at a standstill. 

Before I die, I shall 
leave a will, because if you want some- 
thing done, sentimentality is effective. I 



1 88/SILENCE 



41'00" haven't the slightest idea of what is good 

in the world, but instead quite passively, & often 
against what might be considered a better 
judgment, accepts what happens. 

I find that it is important to take a 
10" multiplicity of steps. 

A story is told about an Irish hero that 

he is required by a jealous mother-in-law 

to go to some distant island. 

At all costs inspiration 
20" must be avoided which is to say 

act in such a way that inspiration 

doesn't come up as an alternative 

but exists eternally. Then of course 

it is theatre and music disappears 

entirely into the realm of art where 
30" it knows it belongs. Art silence is 

not real silence and the difference 

is continuity versus interpenetration. This ( Light match ) 

is also. 



40' 



50" 



( Hold up hand ) 



Music is simply trying things out in 
school fashion to see what happens. 
Etudes. Making it easier but not 
real. Theatre is the only thinf 
that comes near what it is. 



This means for me knowing more & 
more not what I think a sound is, but 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 89 



42'00 



n 



what it actually is, in all of its acoustical 
details & then letting the sound exist, itself 
changing in a changing sonorous environment. 



10" The way it does it is by the intimacy of 
multiplicity and emptiness. The mind has 
nothing in it but everything else is busy 
and there is not an instant lost in 
doing what must be done. Later on, if 
you wish, you can read about mobility 

20" and immobility. To repeat: I am no 
longer interested in it. I am interested 
in asymmetry. 



If one feels 

30" protective about the word "music," protect 
it and find another word for 
all the rest that enters through the 
ears. It's a waste of time to trouble 
oneself with words, noises. What it 
is is theatre and we are in it and 

40" like it, making it. 



50" But beware! 

Here we are now at the 
middle of the fourth large part 



1 90/S1LENCE 



43'00" of this talk 



10" 



There is no 



20' 



30" 



40" 



such thing as silence. Something is al- 
ways happening that makes a sound. 



No one can have an idea 



once he starts really listening. 



It is very simple but extra-urgent 



The Lord knows whether or not 



the next 



50' 



(Bang fist) 



45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 91 



44'00" 

Forever? Now? 



10" 

(Blow nose) 



Hearing or making this in 
20" 



music is not different 



only simpler 
30" 

than living this way. Simpler 

that is, — for me, because it happens. ( Cough ) 

No error. 

And no wondering about what's next. 
40" Going lively on "thru many a 

perilous situation." ( Was it later he was 

discovered? ) And what is your purpose 

in writing music? I do not deal 

in purposes; I deal with sounds. 

What 
50" sounds are those? I make 

them just as well by sitting quite 

still looking for mushrooms. 



Growing fast in sawdust. 
1 92/SILENCE 



Sonya Sekula said, "Why don't you come with me to the Reises'? They're giving a party." I said I 
wasn't invited. Sonya said, "Come anyway; they won't mind." As we walked in, Mrs. Reis was extremely 
friendly in her greeting, and even asked what I'd like to drink. I said, "Rum." She said, "Oh, I'm so sorry. 
I don't have any at the bar, but 111 go down to the basement and get some." I asked her not to bother, 
but she insisted. While she was gone, I made my way over to the bar and discovered Bushmills Irish 
whisky, of which I am very fond. I asked for some and began drinking it. When Mrs. Reis came back 
with the rum, naturally I drank some of that. As the time passed, I drank rum when Mrs. Reis was looking 
and Irish whisky when she wasn't. After a while Sonya Sekula said, "Let's go. You take one of the bottles 
of Irish and I'll get my coat and meet you downstairs." I said, "You take the bottle; I'll get your coat." 
She said, "O.K." I went downstairs, picked up a fur coat; Sonya came running down with the Irish; we 
went out into the snow. I said, "Do you want your coat on?" She said, "No. The car's right here. Just 
throw it in the back seat." A few blocks along, Sonya said, "That's not my coat." I said, "How do you 
know?" She said, "The perfume." We drove on to Grand Street, went upstairs, and killed the Irish. We 
talked all the time about selling the coat in some distant city. Sonya said she knew a fence in St. Louis. 
About midnight I called the Reises and spoke to Mr. Reis. I said, "I have the coat." He said, "Thank God!" 
We made arrangements for my bringing it to his office in the morning. When I got there I explained it 
had all been a mistake. Before we said good-by, he whispered, "No one will ever hear a word about this." 
I went to the elevator. He came running down the hall and said, "What about Mrs. Reis's coat?" I said, 
"I don't know anything about her coat; I didn't take it." 

Two wooden boxes containing Oriental spices and foodstuffs arrived from India. One was for David 
Tudor, the other for me. Each of us found, on opening his box, that the contents were all mixed up. The 
lids of containers of spices had somehow come off. Plastic bags of dried beans and palm sugar had ripped 
open. The tin lids of cans of chili powder had come off. All of these things were mixed with each other 
and with the excelsior which had been put in the box to keep the containers in position. I put my box 
in a corner and simply tried to forget about it. David Tudor, on the other hand, set to work. Assembling 
bowls of various sizes, sieves of about eleven various-sized screens, a pair of tweezers, and a small knife, 
he began a process which lasted three days, at the end of which time each spice was separated from each 
other, each land of bean from each other, and the palm sugar lumps had been scraped free of spice and 
excavations in them had removed embedded beans. He then called me up to say, "Whenever you want 
to get at that box of spices you have, let me know. Ill help you." 

One of Suzuki's books ends with the poetic text of a Japanese monk describing his attainment of 
enlightenment. The final poem says, "Now that I'm enlightened, I'm just as miserable as ever." 

While Meister Eckhart was alive, several attempts were made to excommunicate him. (He had, in 
his sermons, said such things as "Dear God, I beg you to rid me of God.") None of the trials against 
him was successful, for on each occasion he defended himself brilliantly. However, after his death, the 
attack was continued. Mute, Meister Eckhart was excommunicated. 

45' FOR A SPEAKER/1 93 



When I was invited to speak in January 1961 at the Evening School of 
Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, I was told that the burning questions among the 
students there were: Where are we going? and What are we doing? 1 took these 
questions as my subjects and, in order to compose the texts, made use of 
my Cartridge Music. 

The texts were written to be heard as four simultaneous lectures. But to 
print four lines of type simultaneously— that is, superimposed on one another— 
was a project unattractive in the present instance. The presentation here used 
has the effect of making the words legible— a dubious advantage, for I had 
wanted to say that our experiences, gotten as they are all at once, pass 
beyond our understanding. 

A part of this lecture has been printed, in a different typographical 
arrangement, in Ring des Arts, Paris, summer 1961. The entire lecture has been 

WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING? 

recorded by C. F. Peters, New York, in the form of four single-track tapes 
(7/2 ips, forty-five minutes each). The following is a set of directions: 
Four independent lectures to be used in whole or in part— horizontally and 
vertically. The typed relation is not necessarily that of a performance. 
Twenty-five lines may be read in 1 minute, 1% minutes, 1% minutes, giving 
lectures roughly 37, 47, 57 minutes long respectively. Any other speech speed 
may be used. 

A performance must be given by a single lecturer. He may read "live" any 
one of the lectures. The "live" reading may be superimposed on the recorded 
readings. Or the whole may be recorded and delivered mechanically. Variations 
in amplitude may be made; for this purpose, use the score of my composition 
WBAI (also published by C. F. Peters). 

I was driving out to the country once with Carolyn and Earle Brown. We 
got to talking about Coomaraswamy's statement that the traditional function of 
the artist is to imitate nature in her manner of operation. This led me to the 
opinion that art changes because science changes— that is, changes in science 
give artists different understandings of how nature works. 

A Phi Beta Kappa ran in the other day and said, "Your view is that art 
follows science, whereas Blake's view is that art is ahead of science." 

Right here you have it: Is man in control of nature or is he, as part of it, 
going along with it? To be perfectly honest with you, let me say I find nature 
far more interesting than any of man's controls of nature. This does not imply 
that I dislike humanity. I think that people are wonderful, and I think this 
because there are instances of people changing their minds. (I refer to 
individuals and to myself. ) 

1 94/SILENCE 



Not all of our past, but the parts of it we are taught, lead us to believe that 
we are in the drivers seat. With respect to nature. And that if we are not, life 
is meaningless. Well, the grand thing about the human mind is that it can turn 
its own tables and see meaninglessness as ultimate meaning. 

I have therefore made a lecture in the course of which, by various means, 
meaning is not easy to come by even though lucidity has been my constant 
will-of-the-wisp. I have permitted myself to do this not out of disdain of you 
who are present. But out of regard for the way in which I understand nature 
operates. This view makes us all equals— even if among us are some 
unfortunates: whether lame, blind, stupid, schizoid, or poverty-stricken. 

Here we are. Let us say Yes to our presence together in Chaos. 



If we set out to catalogue things 



today, we find ourselves rather 



endlessly involved in cross- 



referencing. Would it not be 

Those of us who don't agree are going 



less efficient to start the other 

around together. The string Duchamp dropped. 



way around, after the fashion of 

He took the apartment without being able to 



some obscure second-hand bookstore? 

pay for it. They danced on a concrete floor. 



The candles at the Candlelight Concert are 



One New Year's Eve I had too 
electric. It was found dangerous 



many invitations. I decided to 
for them to be wax. It has not yet 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/195 



go to all the parties, ending up 
been found dangerous for them to 



at the most interesting one. I 
be electric — and this in spite of 



arrived early at the one I was 
the air-conditioning. If 1 were 



sure would be dull. I stayed there 
able to open my windows, I think 



the whole evening— never got to the others. 
I would do it often, and for no reason at all. 



I would have written sooner but 



I picked up the book and 



could scarcely put it down. It is absolutely 



charming. Tm going to write to the author. 

How can we go over there when 



we haven't the least idea of 



what we will find when we 



get there? Also we don't 



Three birds and a telephone ringing. Does 



know how to land, and we 



that relate to where we are going? Does 

9 

have no way of trying it 



it tell us the direction to take: out 



1 96/SILENCE 



out beforehand. Perhaps we 

the window and down the hall? 
will sink into a huge mile- 

I take a sword and cut off my 
thick pile of dust. What then? 

t 

head and it rolls to where we 



are going. The question is: Do they 



mean it when they say No Trespassing? 



In a sense we are going to extremes. 



You want to know what we're doing? 

That is what we are doing. In fact 



We're breaking the rules, even our 

we don't need to go to bring that 



own rules. And how do we do that? 

into our action. We tend to rush 



By leaving plenty of room for X quantities. 

to what we think are the limits 

The house had been so well built that 



only to discover how tamed our 
even though it burned, it did not 

After we have been going for some 



ambitions were. Will we ever learn 
burn down. The fire gutted it. 

time, do we mellow? ( They used to 

WHERE A R WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE D O I N G ? / 1 9 7 



that it is endless? What then 
We're not going to become less 
say we would. ) Mellowing is sof- 



ts an extreme? The very low sounds, 
scientific, but more scientific. We 
tening. Left to ourselves, if the 



extremely low, are so little available 
do not include probability in science. 
birds didn't get us, we'd putrefy. 

We're putting art in museums, getting it out 

to us and yet we rush to them 
Do I thank you or the one who's 
Of course, our air-conditioning 

of our lives. We're bringing machines 
and don't get them. We find 
opening and closing the door? On days when 
is such that if we just managed 

home to live with us. Now that 

them too soft. We want them 

nobody answers, we stop telephoning. We are 

to die under its influence we'd 

the machines are here so to say to 
extremely loud. If you announced 
going and then coming back and going and 
not putrefy: we'd dry up. 

1 98/SILENCE 



stay with us, we've got to find 

that there was going to be a low 
coming back again. Eventually we 
But since the windows won't 

ways to entertain them. If we don't, 
and loud sound, I imagine 
will go and not come back at all. 
open, we could scarcely be ex- 

they'U explode, but as for going, we're 

quite a number of us would 

• 

pected to blow away. I've always 

going out. Did we just notice the moon 

rush to hear it. What about an 

• 

had my heart set on cremation 

or was it there always? Where we're 
extremely loud high sound? Hear! 

• 

but now I see the reason for earth, 

going is not only to the moon but out into 

Anxiety enters. Some of us would stay 

• 

it frees the air from dead influences. 

space. Home is discrete points. Space is an 
put and say, "Tell me about it." 
The house is built around a large 



infinite field without boundaries. We are 



Once someone's done something, 
chimney, so large that on a good 



leaving the machines home to play the 
it's no longer his responsibility. 
day when the flue is open, the sun 



old games of relationships, addition and 

It's someone else's. It could of 

shines on the hearth. We're getting into 



who wins. ( We're going out. ) A teen-ager- 
course be his again, but what 
our heads that existence, the existence of 



served custard that had wheyed — said, "My 

would he do? I asked the three girls 

a sound, for instance, is a field 

At the beginning of our going, it seems 

mother bakes custard too, but she 

what they would take with them 
phenomenon, not one limited to 
that we are going our separate ways, 

doesn't put water in it." Let us admit, 

to the Caribbean. The third was 
known discrete points in that field — the 
that we have nothing further to say 

once and for all, that the lines 

going to take some fish and a 



conventionally accepted ones — but capable 

to one another, and we leave behind 

we draw are not straight. 

bird which she cannot because 

of appearance at any point in the field. 

in particular the ways we learned to 



they're being housed by friends when 
This brings about a change in our heads. 
communicate. Later on 



she and her family go away. I 

* 

we won't bother about any of that. 

pointed this out: "Since you can't 
We'll be one happy anarchistic family. 

take the bird and the fish, what 
We haven't any time left to stay: we 

« 

will you take? Your sisters 

must go now. Though his ears are 

have said what they'll take." 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING?/199 



extraordinarily sensitive and he's a Quaker, 



There was no answer. Shortly, 



he recommended a restaurant with Muzak. 



but after her sisters, she ran up- 



stairs to bed. "Tuck me in.* 



She drives rapidly; her life is shorter. 



Everything is ready for tomorrow morning. 



I must remember to turn out the lights. 



200/SILENCE 



Small telephones for those near the 



central telephone and large telephones 



for those farther away following 



what one calls a law of nature. 



If there are as many ways as 



there are of looking, there must 



be at least three ways of going— not 



so much ways as wheres. Well, 



there you have it: If I go over 



there and stop, could I not have 



The trouble with Denver is its past. 

gone slightly to the left? As I 



San Francisco used to have the same 
go, direction changes. It is not 



problem. But how are we going to know 

measurable. But it is precise 



where to go when it doesn't make 

going. One moved off to the south, 



the least difference to us where we 

and when I measured he was going 



go? The problem is simple: You 

north. Or I crossed the stream at the 

WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/201 



"Powdered eggs are good enough for me." 



either stay put until you get 

point where the water was going both 
It's not the air-conditioning; it's the 



an invitation or you make your- 

ways. They say how fast and there 
radiant heating in the ceiling: it makes 



self an invitation written in such 
is no way to answer. Tempo is out 
me think someone's up on the roof. 



a way that you couldn't know, 

but comes back in. You might add: 
They played a game in which she 
At the present time it seems 

when you wrote it, what you 

There was no need for us to have gone. 
was the sun. One man was the 
reasonable not to go. The weather 

were writing, and where it would 

• 

earth and the other was the moon: a 

is not made for adult affairs 

be sending you going. And other ways. 

choreography. Now what shall we do? 
202/SILENCE 



( and the furtherance of the national 



economy) but for the games of 



children. Even if we sense 



I wander out in the hall expecting 



a certain obligation to go we 

to see someone. It turns out it wasn't 

Do you remember the story of his 

• 

may very likely not be able to. 

anybody: it was a machine. I'm as 

hanging his shoes out of his own 
Whether or not we want it, we 



crazy as a loon: I'm invited out to 

reach, so that rather than taking 
are insured. And we say it is a 



dinner. I keep telling myself: Before 

the trouble of getting them down, 
good thing. The thing to do is not to 



you go to bed, be sure to close the 

he would simply go on doing what 
have one policy but many and then 



bathroom door; if you don't, you'll 

he was doing and not go out? From 
there is the possibility that the central 



just have to get up and close it 

what I hear, there are ideas that 
office will get confused. (It happens.) 



later. We are going stupidly to places 

we have not yet had simply be- 
We are going to realize that our 



we have never been. Going away from 
cause we don't yet have the language 
analytic method of approaching 



home, sometimes lost, we come by 
to have them. But even in our 
the material we are working with 



circle, home again. We're surprised: 

own language, it seems, there 
(sound, I mean) which was so 



it's changed. Did it slip — out 

are ideas that are confined 

useful is going to give place to 

What we do is not utterly different from 

from under us? The day in the 

to systems, each to a single one, 
some other means, some other 

what we used to do. That is: we 

woods_I took a compass was the 

which means there would be 

useful means. Its awkwardness led us 

used to get an idea and do it and 

day I got lost for sure. Two years 

times when it would be reason- 
willy-nilly into a certain sloppiness. 

then someone else had to do more 

later when I was throwing it out, 

able to say Yes and other times 
(That was not without its hilarious 

or less what he was told to do. 

a child to whom I'd given a bass 

when it would be absurd to say 
effects which we in our deadliness 
Now we get an idea and present 

drum asked whether he might also have 

that same word. Ideas take on 

did not notice.) There is a lingering 

it in such a way that it can 



the compass. The first thing she said 
WHIR! ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/203 



a kind of material reality 
confusion, paying heed to results 
be used by him who is going to 

was: "Everyone's confused; there isn't 

but essentially they are intangible. 
rather than actions (the only solution 
do it. Someone once raised the 

anyone now who isn't confused." 

My question is: Why do we, as 

is to stay where you are: it's you acting). 

question who gets the credit. The 

Or was that the first thing she said? 

it were, imprison them? Of 

• 

listener gives it to himself when 



all things, they are best equipped, 



he gets it. All the people have 



wouldn't you say, to fly in and 
People always want to know what 
become active and enjoy what you 



out of the most unlikely places? 
we're doing and the last thing we 
might call individual security. 



Off hand, for instance, we can do 
204/SILENCE 



want to do is keep it a secret. But 

The composer also has ears on his head. 



one thing at a time. But we 
the truth is we don't know what 



used to admire those artists of 
we're doing and that is how we 



vaudeville who did several 
manage to do it when it's lively. 



at once. To their three, say, 

I believe, of course, that what we're 



we could add our one. But at 
doing is exploring a field, that the 



a circus, three rings, though 
field is limitless and without 



high up, I remember I 
qualitative differentiation but with 






could only look at one ring 
multiplicity of differences, 



at a time. I kept missing or 
that our business has changed 



thinking I was missing some- 
from judgment to awareness — 



thing. On the other hand, if 
I believe all this and it makes 
Travel was not only possible. 



what I'm doing is digging the 
me speechless, for there is nothing 
It was widely engaged in. On 



hog peanut, then it actually happens 

to say. For if I say I am 

both sides of the streets, the two- 



that I can converse, notice changes 

especially active in the 

way ones, there were long lines 



in temperature, take as perfectly 
amplification of small sounds 
of traffic proceeding, to be sure, 



natural the discovery of geasters 
and work with the voice, it 
slowly, but getting, one assumed, 



growing underneath the surface 
doesn't tell you what the others 
eventually where they were going. 



of the earth when I knew 

(who are also us) are doing. Would 

People also were walking and a 

It's very curious. I remember recording 

perfectly well the books don't men- 
it be accurate co say then that 

very large crowd attended the 

machines with dials and clutches. 

tion they do or can. Perhaps a live 
we are all off in separate corners 

Candlelight Concert. Was it because 

Then later there were push buttons. Now 

ghost might have made an ap- 
engaged in our special concerns? 
it was a tradition? It must 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/205 



one has the feeling we're going to 

parition and I would have 

No. It is more to the point to talk 

be that that is the case: the lady 

have dials again. We need 

found it perfectly unremarkable. 
about the field itself, which 
beyond the one sitting next to me 

desperately when it comes to a 

Is this the effect of concentration? 
is that it is and enables us 
whispered to my neighbor that 

machine to be able to go at any speed. 

// only, she said, I have a 

all to be doing the same thing 

the program this year was not 



thread, I can then take the 
so differently. And about this 
as entirely appreciated by her 



rest, hanging on as it were. 
field, nothing can be said. And 
as the one last year. And 



We also discussed the mortality of 
yet one goes on talking, in order 
when they first came in, they 



birds in connection with modern architecture. 
to make this clear. Suzuki Daisetz 
sat down in the reverse relation 

Instead of living and learning, don't we 

• 

laughed many times quietly: once 

to me that I have just described 

live by learning we're not learning? 

• 

it was when he was discussing 
so that the one who was later 

For instance: When I moved to the 

• 

the quality of not being explicable 

my neighbor was then at the 

country I no sooner found myself 

They have curious regulations for 
and pointing out that he had 
beginning beyond my neighbor. 

insatiably involved in tramping 

pedestrians. After the light turns 
come from Japan with the inten- 
She whispered her approval of 

through the woods than summer 

red, there is a white one and 

tion of making explicit this 

the wreaths and ropes of greenery 

passed through fall into an 

then the people walk wherever 



206/SILENCE 



quality which was of not being clear. 

which decorated the chapel 

icy winter. I made some 

they wish, crossing the intersection 
(My words, it goes without saying, 
along with the electric lights and 

inquiries and finally got to 

even diagonally. One begins to think 
are not the ones he used.) We 
electric candles. She found them 

a municipal office where I 

it's better when we're going not 
don't any more take vacations. Or 
more beautiful than last year. 

filled out blanks that led to 

to pay attention to the signs. 

if through special circumstances we 

Very rarely do people any more 

my getting a license for hunting 

It is as though we were looking 
are obliged to take a vacation, we 
flock to a public occasion. 

and fishing. Then I bought some 
with other eyes than our own. I mean 
take what we're doing with us. 
Apparently if you keep some- 
ingenious paraphernalia for fishing 
the way we are going is transform- 
There is, in fact, no way to get away. 



thing traditional they'll still do 

on an ice-covered body of water. 

ing our vision. And the profound- 

• 

it, providing the weather permits. 

Dressed as warmly as possible, 

est changes take place in the 

• 

One thing I found a bit jarring 

I drove up to the lake, chopped 

things we thought the most 

• 

was the switching on of the electric lights that 

holes in the ice, fixed hooks 

familiar. On the first trip when 

• 

suddenly gave the effect of sun- 

and lines and waited for 

the cat was taken up to that 

• 

light streaming through the 

little red flags, popping up, 

town near Boston (because they were going 

• 

stained glass windows high above 

to signal success. I heard 

away) it got sick; they nursed it back. 



the chorus and orchestra. I glanced 
WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING9/207 



the sounds that travel through 

On the second trip, the cat died. 

• 

along the sides of the chapel. The 
the ice as it freezes; I was 



windows there were not illuminated. 



astonished. Later, I was on the 



The tradition of focusing one's 



ice as the sun, setting, colored 



attention was being observed. The 
both it and the sky. I was 



electric candles were some white and 



amazed. I remember I shrank 



some a sort of highway brownish yellow. 



in my own estimation. Before 



I nearly froze, I collected all 



my traps, no fish. I made a 

What we do, we do without purpose. 

mental note not to go ice-fishing 
We are simply invited 

again without a bottle of cognac. 
to do it, by someone else 

On the other hand, there are certain 

or by ourselves. And so we do this or that. 



things I am taught ( and I do want 

The day before yesterday towards the 



to learn them ) ; for instance : if 

middle of the afternoon I noticed 



I will remember not just to touch 



208/SILENCE 



I was running out of matches. 



wood but to rub my hand on 

I went through pockets, under 



it before I touch metal, then I 

papers on tables and finally 



won't get a shock. I had pre- 

found a single match. Having 



viously thought that if I picked 
lit a cigarette, I decided to 

• 

We are not doing very much 

up my feet as I walked 

keep one lit constantly whether 

• 

of any one thing. We are continually 

across the carpet or if I even 
J was smoking or not. Oppressed 

9 

dropping one thing and picking 

hopped through the room 

by this obligation, I went down- 



up another. We are, you might 

before turning a doorknob or 

stairs to the kitchen, found 

» 

say, concentrated inside and idiotic out. 

a light switch that I 

nothing, but picked up an 



wouldn't get a shock. That 
article by the man at the 



doesn't work. The wood-rubbing 

other end of the hall that happened 



does work. The crux of the 

to catch my eye. I read it, 



matter is: will I remember 

cooked dinner, went on working, 



to rub wood first and, even 

and managed through all of this 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/209 



so, just in case I sometime 

to light another cigarette foe- 



find myself in a situation 

fore the burning one burned out. 



where there isn't any wood 

I determined to go to the movies 



to rub, shouldn't I just 

in order to get some matches. 



decide, here and now, no 

However, in the car, I found 



matter where I go, to carry 

some partly used folders of them 



a piece of wood with me? 

and just went to the movies uselessly. 



21 O/SILENCE 



Although we speak about going, 

The next afternoon, the secretary 



I notice that we spend a lot 

came in and asked for a 



of time waiting; that is, I wait. 
match. I still had a few 



And when I tell others about it, 

left from those I'd found in the 

• 

He was afraid all along that he 

they say they wait too. 
car. I realized the situation 

• 

might lose his mind. He had no 



was growing ticklish. I left and 



fear of the cancer which killed him. 



with the single purpose of getting 

He gave rise to two schools, and repudiated 



matches. I came back with an 

them both. That is partly true. We are 



Talking about death, we began 

artichoke, a sweet potato, an onion 

not just going: we are being swept away. 



laughing. There had even been an 

I didn't need (for I already 

How was it she managed to teach me 



attempted suicide. Which are 

had one), three limes, two per- 

that the play of her emotions needn't involve 



you supposed to read: the 

simmons, six cans of ale, a box 
me? Christmas is here and then 



article or the advertisements? 

of cranberries and an orange, eggs, 
shortly we'll be filling out the income tax. 



I felt so miserable I went to 

milk, and cream, and fortunately 



I remembered the matches. That 



gotten up. I decided to 

evening the possibility of lighting 



cancel everything. Instead 

a cigarette on an electric stove 



I went out in the woods and 

was mentioned, an action 



revived. Going into the unknown 

with which I am fully familiar. 

You remember the seeds? Well, today, 



we have no use for value 

It is fairly clear that we have 
it was rubber bands (not flying 



judgments. We are only greedy: 

changed our direction, but it 
through the air, but littering the 
There are those who go part way 

we want more and more while 
sleep even though I'd just is not so clear when we 

WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/211 



sidewalk). It would be so much 
but can't go any farther. And 

there's still time. We're getting 
did it. Was it in 1913 when 
simpler if we were expressing 

there is a great interest in going 

around to the usefulness of science 

Duchamp wrote his piece of music? 
ourselves. In that case all you'd 
and staying at the same time: 

( I don't mean probability ) ( I mean 

And since he didn't tell us, how 
need for an understanding of 
naturally not in the physical 

seeing things just as they are in 

did we know? Is what we're 
what we're doing would be a 
world, but in the world of art. 

their state of chaos ) '. And so, if 
doing in the air or on the land? 
large collection of city directories. 
These people want somehow to 

you were writing a song, would 
When did competition cease? 

• 

keep alive the traditions and 

you write music, or would you 
Looking back, it all seems to 

• 

212/SILENCE 



yet push them forward. It gets 

write for a singer? "I can't even 

have been done the way we are 

• 

rather superhuman as a 

try," she said, "I can't whistle." 

doing it. Even the old bridges. 

• 

project. The others don't care 



so much about tradition, but hang on anyway. 



We sometimes leave before we said 



we would, and then by things beyond 



our control arrive ahead of time. We 



then imagine that it will be the same 



coming back, and it is. They were in 



Why didn't I bring my boots? I 



an automobile together on the way to 



have several pairs but I left 



Oxford. It is remarkable what we are 



them all where they are. I could 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/213 



doing: even though we give the appearance of 
say that I knew where I was 

idiots, we are clearing things up considerably. 
going but didn't know what it 

Both the turnips and the sweet potatoes 
would be like when I got there. 

appeared to have been left to rot. 

I would have brought some boots 

One of the noticeable things about our 
So I took some of each without 

• 

had I thought there was a chance 

going is that we're all going 
asking. It turned out I should have 

• 

of going mushrooming. I did 

in different directions. That's 

asked whether or not I might have the 

• 

bring the basket in which I often 

because there's plenty of room. 

turnips. No question of will you or 

214/SILENCE 



throw the boots, but this time 

We're not confined to a path 

won't you: we are inevitably going. 

• 

the boots are where they are; and 
and so we don't have to follow 



yet I could have put them to 



in someone's footsteps even though 



use. Often the reverse situation 



that's what we're taught to do. We 



arises: we get into a position 



can go anywhere, and if we 



with our art where we have 



can't, we concentrate on finding 



a need for something which 
a way to get exactly there 



we have never had and of 



( if we know where there is ) . 



the existence of which we have 



There's so much to do, it's a 



no knowledge. We then go to 



waste of time to run around 



a store that might carry 



the house writing twelve-tone 



such things and discover to 



music. And that's the only musical 



our delight that the tool was 
way to go now if one's going 

• 

We go foolishly where angels fear 
just invented and is in stock. 

to go in the same direction 

• 

to tread (which is not to say that 
That was more or less what 



others go. That was Schoenberg's business. 

• 

we do not tremble) and in our 
happened to the field of music 



foolishness, we make connections 

eleven or twelve years ago. 



where there had been separateness. 
And that concomitant going 



We take things that were together 

makes us sometimes say that 



and pull them apart. We remove 
things are in the air. Or 



the glue but build invisible bridges. 

the Lord is working or some 



For the field is not not a field 

such statement. The less we 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/215 



Had a musician to choose between 

« 

of music, and the acceptance is 

hold onto our going, the more 

death, deafness, and blindness, 

• 

not just of the sounds that 

this mysterious stream of gifts 

which would he choose? 

• 

had been considered useless, ugly, 
surrounds us or comes our 

Death's inevitable, does not 

• 

and wrong, but it is a field 

way. Say then that we are 

sting, and time shows it's good 

• 

of human awareness, and the 
generally active but not specifically 

for music. Blindness would cer- 

• 

acceptance ultimately is 

doing just this but able to employ 

tainly sharpen his sense of 

Say I've accepted two invitations and they're 

of oneself as present mysterious- 

for no purpose whatever comes our way. 

hearing. Deafness . . . well . . . 
21 6/SILENCE 



both for the same time. In certain 
ly, impermanently, on 



Beethoven. The lake up above 

cases,, I could speed up, as it were, and 
this limitless occasion. 



where we live used to be a town. 

accept both, spending less time with 



When the people who lived there 

each. In another case, it would be 



were told to leave because the 

physically impossible to go to both, in which 



waters were being let in, they, 

case a choice would have to be made. 

Shall I give up mushrooms and 



most of them, did leave. A few 

One obligation is then dropped and every- 
study the trees? By all means. They 
We are inclined to think that 

insisted on staying and had 

thing goes smoothly. How, however, 



go together almost alarmingly 

things are done better when they're 

to be rescued from the roofs 

do we regain the sense of duty? I told 
clearly. What dogged determination 
done the first time. That, for 

of their homes by policemen 

her several times Yd bring her mush- 
made my mind shuttle back and 
instance, as we go on doing 

in rowboats. On the north 

rooms; why is it I never have? 
forth on one track? We only 
the same thing, it gets worse 

side of this lake there were here 

make choices when it's absolutely 

rather than better. So many 

and there grapevines, not wild, 

necessary. If we have something 

things in history exemplify 

but wildly growing, excellent for 

to do, we don't question whether 

this deterioration in going. 

jelly. One year I made, if I 

it is worth while; we just do it. 

WHERE ARE WE 



However, when our eyes get 
do say so, good grape jelly 

• 

The reason we waste our time so 
used to the dark, we see that 

from those grapes. Next year 

willingly is that our ideas about 
it's not so bad after all. 

I gathered a greater quantity 

• 

usefulness were so limited. 

We enjoy hearing about night- 

although I was told by an 

When someone with his nose to the 
mares but we feel we are 

inspector that it was against 

• 

grindstone tells us we needn't bother 

going along in sunlight doing 

regulations. Anyway, while cooking, 

to do such and such, we get the 
the things we do. He said, 

I got something else on my 

We will not go unless we have no alter- 
impression that's something might 
when I explained that formerly 

GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING?/217 



mind and the jelly burned — 

native. They were the wrong ages and related. 
interest us. We study how not to 
I had to keep my house and 

not with the sugar in it 

The doctor who gave the adjustment butchered 
stick to our work. Of course, if 
desk in order and that my 

but before, when I was 

the deer. It was an invention? The 
we have too much to do, 
first work each day consisted 

expressing the juice. Now, of 

telegram arrived but never departed. 
studying being interrupted, we try first 

in copying over neatly the 

course, all the vines are gone. 

The picture on the front page has no caption. 
to do everything, and if we 
work of the previous day— 

They're putting in a parking 

• 

can't, then, as a last resort, 

he said, "That's the way I do 

lot and a beach for swimming 

He told me about the seeds that whirl 
we choose, not so much what 
it now." But I made a 

21 8/SILENCE 



so that two thousand people can 

and showed me one; I think he 
we'll do as, regretfully, what 

sweeping gesture around 

swim at once. We do not 

said they were from the tulip tree— 
we wont. But this choice is 
the room suggesting the 

determine where we go by 

and in the wind, he said, they go great 
not made on any basis such 
embrace of the chaos that one 

where we'd like to go. We are 

distances. I looked out the window 
as "What would please us the most?" 
could see there. The house- 
too aware of everywhere. 
just now. They suggest an innovation in toys. 
There again, what we find most 
keeper does nothing about 

That is, woods, for instance, 

• 

pleasing is that our tastes are 
it because he is instructed 

any woods will do for my 

« 

not limited the way they were. 

not to touch any papers. 

wandering in them, and 






They're getting catholic, we might 

There are advantages and 

nothing could be more 

c 

say. Naturally, we don't want 
disadvantages. It takes time 

frustrating than our necessary 

• 

to kill ourselves. At the same 

to find something you're 

long trips that take us quickly 

• 

time, we realize we're on a sinking 

thinking of, but in the course 

over large territories, each 

• 

ship. We come up with a version 
of looking for it all sorts of 

square foot of which would 

• 

of the Golden Rule, but we're not 

things come up that one was 

be suitable for exploration. 

• 

certain how we'd like to he done 

not looking for. You might 

Need I say?— Not only woods, but 



by. We suspect, rather we know, 

call living in chaos an 

sounds, people, hook-ups, protests. 

• 

there are pleasures beyond our 

exteriorization of the mind. 



cautious past experience. If they 

It is as though the things in 



say, for instance, "That music hurt 

the room, in the world, in the 



my ears" we immediately think it 

woods, were the means of thinking. 



WHERE ARE WE GOI 



probably didn't, that what were hurt 

In a grand sense, I do what you 

were mental attitudes and feelings, and these 

do and you do what I do. 

make us rampant. Traffic continues. 
NG? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/219 



Thus it is economical for each 



one of us to be original. We get 



more done by not doing what 



someone else is doing. This 



way we can speed up history — 

t 

Originally we had in mind what 
the one we're making. No need 

■ 

you might call an imaginary 
for competition, even with 

beauty, a process of basic 
220/SILENCE 



oneself. After all, we're all 



emptiness with just a few 



the same species and we live on the 



things arising in it. What we 



same planet. And I am not who I was. 



had there in mind was not 



We are trying to go fast enough 
so much ours (but we thought 



to catch up with ourselves. This 
it was ) as it was something 

We were artisans; now we're 

helps to keep us ignorant of 

• 

like those Japanese gardens 

the observers of miracle. All you 

knowing where we are going. 

• 

with a few stones in them. 



have to do is go straight on, 

Things come in and we send 

• 

And then when we actually 

leaving the path at any moment, 

answers. By slow and fast mail, 

• 

set to work, a kind of 

and to the right or to the left, 

telegram, and telephone. Now and 

• 

avalanche came about which 

coming back or never, coming 

then we appear in person to one 

• 

corresponded not at all 

in, of course, out of the rain. 

another. An announcement arrived. 

• 

with that beauty which had 



There she was with her back to me painting 
seemed to appear to us as an 

with a stick as long as that of a broom. 
objective. Where do we go 



then? Do we turn around? 



Go back to the beginning and 



change everything? Or do 



we continue and give up 



what had seemed to be 



where we were going? Well, 

Those signs that are misplaced— 
what we do is go straight 



the ones on the street over to the 
WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/221 



on; that way lies, no doubt, 

left— the one-way street (there 
a revelation. I had no idea 

are two signs, each saying "One way," 
this was going to happen. I 

and they point towards one 
did have an idea something 

another— that is, they are at cross 
else would happen. Ideas 

purposes): were they misplaced by 
are one thing and what 

children? and is that what was 
happens another. At this 

meant by the Scripture, that we would 
222/SILENCE 



point again space between 

be led by children? I asked 
things is useful. But we 

the man at the toll booth 
are not going into retirement. 

what would be my best bet: 
If we are islands, we are 

he said just go straight ahead. 
glass ones with no blinds 

I noted that the road shortly 
but plenty of old shoes 

became very confusing. He said, 
lying around. Also these 

"Why should itF' A car behind 
islands are not cubes but 



made me proceed against my 
are spheres: we go out 

better judgment. We purposefully 
from them in any direction, 

The weather's changing. We are 

do what is unnecessary. And 

• 

not just north, east, south, 

busy doing what we do. We take 

we have the brass to say that 

• 

and west. Field therefore is 

time, now and then, not to see what 

that is exactly what had to be 

• 

not explicit as a term of 

someone's doing but what he did. 

done. We have come (or are we 
I must say I was surprised 
description. And thus a piece 

We see that to look at an object, 

still going?) (someone wrote that 
to read that he had no interest 
of paper also falsifies the 



a work of art, say, we have to 
we've touched bottom— an imper- 
in food. If I hadn't been told, 
situation. One way or another, 

see it as something happening, 

manent bottom, he hastened to add, but 

I would have surmised that he 

we are obliged to be able to go in all directions. 

not as it did to him who made it, 
then added that we truly have 
was a gourmet. Not at all. It 



but as it does while we see it. 

touched bottom as far as our 
appears that he preferred food to 



We don't have to go anywhere: 

knowledge and tools are concerned). 
be the same (providing he found 



it comes to us. It's a bright 
As I was saying: we have come 
some he enjoyed), the same each day. 



sunny day, but that man's 

(or are we still going?) to a 



windshield-wipers are working. 
WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING?/223 



point where it is necessary to 
We who speak English were so 



It looks as though I will one day 

speak at cross purposes with what 
certain of our language and that 



be able to look at a tree and speak its 

we are saying. It is because what- 
we could use it to communicate 
We are still going and we are 

name, and if that happens, going 

ever we were saying so failed to 
that we have nearly destroyed 
certain that we will never get there. 

along with it will be a change 

hit the mark. Now at last we know that 
its potential for poetry. The 
It is just as I thought: the 

of attitude towards winter, just 

saying one thing requires saying 
thing in it that's going to save 
children are out playing and 

as fungi have given me a 

the opposite in order to keep the 
the situation is the high percentage 
the rest of us are running the 

change of attitude towards rain. Getting 

whole statement from being like 

224/SILENCE 



of consonants and the natural way 
danger of not being able to 

rid of leaves makes trees visible. 

a Hollywood set. Perhaps it would 
in which they produce discontinuity. 
do what we have to do. And 



be better to be silent, but a) someone 
so, to put it bluntly, what 

else would be speaking; and b) it 
will we do if we cannot 

wouldn't keep us from going and we 
go on with what we are doing? 

would continue doing what we 
I congratulate myself that I 



are doing. I remember once his 
What do we like? We do not like 

had the good sense to put the car in a garage. 



saying: "But this opens up 

to be pushed around emotionally or to 



an entirely untouched field 

have impressive constructions of re- 



of poetry." And to this day 
lationships push us. We can 



neither one of us has budged 
manage to do something with 



to move into that untouched 
such situations (if we have to 



open field. I put it away. 

be present) such as pinning our 



Today in the newspaper they 
attention to some natural event 



bring up the subject, but con- 
which is either in the work 



tinue: "Persons who threaten to 
or ambient to it but irrelevant 



take their lives and are picked 
to its intention. I was asked about 



up by the police here will 

the music for the Candlelight Concert 



not be jailed any more, but 
and I remarked that it would 



will be taken to the hospital instead.' 
be a pleasure to hear the 



motets and the Christmas carols 



but that excerpts from the 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING?/225 



oratorio were too much. The 



reply was, "But don't you enjoy 



being moved?' (I enjoy being 



interrupted but not pushed.) 



Other people came and some left 

Dropping everything and going is not 
and in the conversation my 

as simple as it sounds. You find 
answer was given to a person 

you forgot to go through your 
226/SILENCE 



who had not asked the question. 
pockets; and then again that if 

* 

I quoted: "The purpose of music 

you didn't actually take something 
is to sober and quiet the mind, 

along, that something stuck to 
thus making it susceptible to divine 

you that you failed to notice. 
influences." Shortly three of us left 

One might say, "Well, let it, since 
and were out in the sharp 



everything goes and there is no 

We are doing only what is necessary. 
clear winter night. We walked 



question of value, etc." But 

Once when I thought I was going east, I 



along and then into the apartment 



here is a rub: that is only 

went west. Do I assume the microscope will be 
(not the air-conditioned one) and 



the case when somehow you've 

ruined? Poison ivy this time but not the other. 
I asked whether they had music 



managed to drop everything. Do 

The appointment is for 9:00 A.M. Friday. 
in their Quaker meetings and of 



we do it and then go? Are our 
course they don't. And yet his 

means suitable for this objective? 
ears are marvelously open when 

Examine them carefully with accuracy. 
we walk in the woods. He hears 

Repeat the examination daily. This 



brings up the subject of anonymity. 

• 

makes, up at the top of the 

I was absolutely amazed to hear 

But it can be dropped. Here I am. 

ridge and down by the stream and 
him describing to me the beauties 

My work is something else. 

« 

in different trees. He hears them all 

of the long line in music, and 



together and distinguishes them. He 

lamenting its absence in the 



told me about the suit he was wear- 
pulverized, fragmented modern 

We are losing our sense of values 

• 

ing, a hand-woven tweed, and the 
music. And I was amazed 

and we are getting increased awareness. 

• 

difficulties attached to finding a 
too that when the nature 



the different sounds the wind 

WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING?/227 



We are giving up pride and shame and 

• 

tie that had the rust color 

of the pulverization was pointed 

getting interested in whatever comes 

• 

of one of the threads in the 

out, that he continued to 

our way or to which we get. Who knows? 

material. His daughter sent 

say something was missing, 

If, after thought, I come to the con- 

• 

him a tie recently, and since 

namely the long line. 

elusion that Cantherellus umbonatus grows 

she has a fine sense of color, it 
( She too had said, "Give me a 

most plentifully where there is not 

matches perfectly, but the suit 
line and I'll be able to hang 

only the hair-capped moss but also 

is wearing out. The cleaner in 

anything on it.") But the 

228/SILENCE 



young junipers, dampness, and some 

• 

fact said there is nothing more 
other one, she who came 

sun, how do you explain that to- 

to be done to save it. Before I left, 

from India, was grateful 

day in a more or less open field 

• 

they brought out a dress from Guatemala. 
for silence. She could see 

we were stepping on them? To be 



easily the possibility of the 



sure there was moss, but it was a sit- 



omission of a constant 



uation like ones in which I'd only met 



connective. Nothing needs 



with failure. While we're on the sub- 



to be connected to anything 



ject, how is it I lost interest in the 






else since they are not 



Greeks? Now they interest me 



separated irrevocably to begin 



very much. It seems they weren't 



with. Past appearances are 

so devoted to the gods after all. Tragedy? 



to some blinding and to others 



clarifying. Right now perhaps 



again the children are teaching 



We are going into the field of frequency 
us. They have no conception of 



a long line. They have only 



leaving the notes of the major and minor 
a short attention span. And 



scales and the modes, for they are 
the mass media— they take it 



in the field we're going into. The 
for granted that we, like 

same holds true for the field of 
children, need to have every- 



amplitude, the field of timbre, the 
thing constantly changing. I 

field of duration, the field of space. 

m 

can find no example now 
Though we are not leaving any- 



and that doesn't mean that we are 

WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/229 



in our consciousness of 

thing, our notations are changing 
the necessity in us for a long 

and sometimes even disappearing. 
line outside of us. ( She called 

Usefulness is uppermost in our 
it the uncommitted void. ) If 

* 

minds. We begin to be certain 
we were really prepared we would 

that we never were where we 

m 

need not only boots but roller 

thought we were, that not only 
skates too. Then we could visit 

were mistakes made on occasion, 

• 

the museums with the long halls 
230/SILENCE 



noticeable wrong notes, but that the 

■ 

lined with art. Do you suppose 

whole kit and caboodle was a mis- 
that eventually they will clear 

t 

take. The Cuban boy is partly German. 
everything up? Enough so that 



the children will have to stop 



playing? There is a fear too 



Our sense of whether or not we did 



there that an idea which is 



what we said we would do is slipping. 



not in line will somehow 



What will we do now? I noticed, magnificent 
cause one to lose the thread. 

as he is, that he can't tell where he's going. 
What results is work without 



interruption, apologies for 



absence of quality, and shortness 



of quantity and complaints 



that they did something to 



it which was not part 



of the original intention. 



We will change direction constantly. 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/231 



People have arrived from out of town. 



We are having two or three gatherings at once. 



It was before dawn: I looked out 



the window and there he was 



walking down the street in the dark. 



It turned out he was not in town at 



all. I had seen someone else. We celebrate. 

Between 1930 or say 1929 and 1942 

We don't have to make special arrangements. 
232/SILENCE 



I moved around a good deal. 



I got the impression that I 



never stayed any place more 



There is a story that is to the 



than a year. I was full of 



point. A man was born in 



purpose. Ask me what it was 



Austria. When he came into 



and I couldn't really tell you. 



his inheritance, he gave all 



Jobs. Actually, I still have 



his money away. He engaged 



the same goal in mind. What 



in a wide variety of activities 



I've always wanted and still want 



one after the other. When 



is a Center for Experimental Music. 



the War came along, he went 



Perhaps, some day, maybe when I 



into it. He continued his 



can just barely whisper in accept- 



activity during the War and 



ance, they'll say, "Why! of course 



even his correspondence. Later 



you can have it. Here it is, 



he moved back and forth between 



a big, beautiful Center for Ex- 



more or less the same countries 



perimental Music, replete with 



and, as I say elsewhere, he 



Festivals of Contemporary Music 



started at different times 



that'll make America look as 



different schools and repudiated 



wide awake as Europe. Make 



both of them which is only 



any sounds you like: loud-speakers, 



partly true. He moved around 



tape machines; that's nothing, 



a good deal and even came 



you can have a super synthe- 
RE ARE ING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/233 



I know that if I managed to tell you 
to America and then he went 

sizer. What more do you 

where we are going, it wouldn't 

• 

back; he had been at one 

want? You can have it." Well, 

interest you, and it shouldn't except 

• 

time in Ireland and he 

every time I moved, I used to 

as conversation. (But I am going 

• 

began to more and more 

look through my papers, letters, 

alone; in the Martian anal- 

• 

include it in the places 

music, and so forth, and I threw a- 

ysis we are all one happy 

• 

to which he went and he 

way whatever I thought I could 

family.) I mentioned that nothing 

• 

included Norway. He found 

just to lighten the travel. That 

seemed irrelevant and he said, "Yes, 

234/SILENCE 



a rare mushroom and since 

way I threw away all my 

we see more and more connections" 

• 

it was in a dry season he 

earliest work. There used to 

But we are doing something else: 

• 

built a protection for it 

be, for instance, some settings 

we are putting separations between 

• 

and provided it with water. 

to choruses from The Persians by 

each thing and its other. And why is it, when 

• 

Fulfilling other commitments 

Aeschylos and an Allemande. But 

we have no silence, they say, "Why didn't you?" 

m 

and yet studying the growth 
before that there were some 



of the fungus, he involved 



short, very short, pieces composed 






himself in many trips of 250 miles 
by means of mathematical formulae. 



each. Is that what we are doing? 



What do you think, moving off 



as we might, all of us, to the 



moon, might we not all of us look through 



our papers? Father's foot: twice he 



up a tree, cutting nearly through his 



we do right now. It is not 



wrist; lately in a back yard a 



in the nature of doing to 

thorn pierced the flesh of his ankle. 

• 

It is interesting when we hear 
improve but rather to come 

It's been a year and a half going on two years. 

that someone has traveled to a 

into being, to continue, to 



foreign country, one he was never 

go out of being and to 



went out to pick flowers for Mother 

in before. It is also interesting 

be still, not doing. That 
We will never have a better 

and wounded himself seriously, once 

when we hear that someone has 

still not-doing is a 

idea of what we're doing than 

WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/235 



homes in various places all 
preparation. It is not 

What are we doing about technique? 

• 

over the world. And if we hear 
just static: it is a quiet 

We can use it or leave it alone. 

• 

that someone does not travel 
readiness for whatever and 

We can remember the old ones and 

• 

at all, or very little, that too is inter- 

the multiplicities are already 

invent new ones. If you are o- 

• 

esting. We heard that they might have 
there in the making. We watch 

bliged to whistle and can't, there 

• 

gone to Finland but didn't; that 

for signs and accept omens. 

remains the possibility of buying 

• 

was not interesting. We, too, 

Everything is an omen, so 

a whistle which you can surely 
236/SILENCE 



have not gone to Finland, and 

we continue doing and changing. 

blow. We are not bound hand 

what will be interesting is news 
Do we have, if not ideas 

and foot even if we were never 

that someone's actually gone there. 

about what we're doing, 

taught to sing or to play an in- 

• 

In our own experience, we some- 

feelings about our actions, 

strument. We can be silent and 

• 

times have the impression that 

what we've made? We're 

so forth. In fact, technically speaking, 

• 

we are the first ones to ever 
losing them because we're 

we are in possession of a vast 

• 

be in a particular place, but 

no longer making objects 

repertoire of ways of producing 



we do not trust this impression. 
but processes and it is easy 

sound. What is it that makes 

• 

We feel it rising up like an 

to see that we are not separate 

anyone say, "I can't"? Busy doing 

• 

atmosphere around us and we 

from processes but are in them, 

something else? Shall we then 

• 

find it a kind of hallucination 

so that our feelings are not 

all gather at the River? Stick 

• 

which does not let us see clearly 

about but in them. Criticism 

together? We have multiplied 

where we are. If we want to go 
vanishes. Awareness and use 

ourselves geometrically and our 

• 

where no one else has ever gone 
and curiosity enter into 

inclination is to be alone when- 

(and still not go out into space), 

WHERE ARE WE 



making our consciousness. We 

ever possible, except when loneliness 

we will have two good bets: 

are glad to see that we are 

sets in. Sixty people all singing 

• 

areas environmental to highly 

noticing what happens. Asked 

in chorus like angels only make 

• 

attractive points which are 

what happened, we have to 

us pray that once in Heaven, 

exceedingly difficult to get to, 

say we don't know, or we 

God lets us anarchistic be! Why 

and areas which are unattractive, 

could say we see more 

did we go in our arts to order and 

period. It is these latter that are 

clearly but we can't tell you what we see. 

many people doing the same thing 



so useful: a) because they re all 
GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/237 



together, when, given an opportunity 
around us (Americans); b) because we can 

for a vacation, we look for a spot 
actually go to them instead of just 

where we know ( statistically ) no 
talking about going (as we might 

one we know will be? We go 
have to do in the other case); 

into a crowd with a sharp 

c) because the experience erodes our 

awareness of the idiosyncrasies 
preconceptions about what attracts 

of each person in it, even if 

us. Nevertheless we would still like 



they're marching, and we along 



to have a Center for Experimental Music. 



with them. We see, to put it 

We can tell very easily whether 



coldly, differences between two things 

something we're doing is con- 



that are the same. This enables 

temporarily necessary. The way 



us to go anywhere alone or with 

we do it is this: if something 



others and any ordinarily too 

else happens that ordinarily would 
Will we ever again really bother 



large number of others. We could 

be thought to interrupt it 

to describe in words or notation 



take a vacation in a hotel on 



238/SILENCE 



doesn't alter it, then it's work- 
the details of something that 



Times Square. But what we do 

ing the way it now must. This state- 
has not then yet happened? Many 



see is that we have to give up 

ment is in line and can be illustrated 
will do this and the changes in sol- 



our ideas about where we are 

by former statements I have 
fege that will soon take place in 



going since if we don't, we 

made about painting and music 
the schools are alarming just to 



won't get anywhere. If you'd 

but here extend to doing: that 
imagine. There will be an 



asked me a few years ago 

is (about painting): if the 
increase in the amount of time 



or even just last year whether 

work is not destroyed by 



we spend waiting — waiting for 



I'd like to live in an air- 

shadows; and (about music): 
machines to do what we planned 



conditioned suite where I 

if the work is not destroyed 

for them to do, and then discovering 



wouldn't be able to open the 

by ambient sounds. And so 
a mistake was made or the 



windows, I would have given you a flat No. 

the doing not destroyed by 
circuits were out, and finally 



simultaneous simisituated 

getting an acceptable approximation. 



action. It must then have no 
This is not unrelated to thinking 



objective, no goal. Time must be of 
the recording, say, of the sound 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/239 



little— I was going to say 
of a gong is the sound 



no— consequence. (I pray one 

of the gong when it isnt recorded. 



day I may.) But other 

It is at this crossroads that 



prayers would be: Dear Lord, 
we must change direction, if, 



let me not run out of ink 

that is, we are going where we 



(I have committed myself to 
are going. (I know perfectly 



quantity); and Dear Lord, do 
well I'm wandering but I try to 



If we really did change, we wouldn't 

let me catch up, otherwise 
see what there is to see and 



have to bother about practicing. Of 

I will have to become not 
my eyes are not as good as 



course, we'd gradually slip out of doing 

contemporary (in my terms) 
they were but they're improving.) 



all the things we practiced. And then when 

but ancient (in my terms) 
We make then what we do 



we started going, it would be in a 

working like a monk in 
virtually unnoticeable, so that 



state of not knowing. We would be 

a tower with a princess 
you could even have missed 



as interested as anybody else. Have 

of his own imagination. 

the point of its beginning and 



240/SILENCE 



painters always been looking? 

I refuse art if that is what 

not be certain about the events 



Musicians, mirabile dictu, are just 

it is but unless I am cautious 

(whether they were "in" or "out" of it) to 



beginning to listen. ( It was some- 

that is precisely what it will 

say nothing of its ending. Nothing 



thing else to say it's a good thing the 
become (mine, I mean: He came 
special. Nothing predetermined. Just 



children, aged five and seven, are being 

in and warned me; and then 
something useful to set the 
I have just ascertained that 

taught solf ege. ) Are we on foot 

another and thanked me for 

thing going. We could say to 

the clock is twenty-five minutes fast. 

or in the air? That's an important 

Mallarme and job; and then 
ourselves: "Beware of setting 
That means that I still have 

question when it's a question of 



I sneezed ) . I am not obliged 
out in search of something 
time, probably not enough to 

going. By what bleak chain 

to tell you all of this: I am 
interesting"; and, "Beware of doing 
finish what I'm doing but 

of events did we exchange the 

obliged to speak to you and 

special things to make two 

time. It is extremely unpredictable 

chain store for the market place? 

that is what we (you and I) are 
things more different than they 
what will happen next and 

Conversation, the food itself, these and 

doing. And now I've just heard 
are"; "Beware in fact of the 
that, of course, is largely 

how much else down the drain? 

about Marchetti. They've made 
tendency to stop and start." "But 
due to the weather. We made 



a mistake. I do hope it isn't 

we must have something to do!" 

our arrangements very early 



a mistake. Hidalgo's gone to 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/241 



in advance and they even 
Paris and Marchetti's gone to 

9 

include dinner ( I have no 
Milan and Spain is left without 

t 

idea what we'll eat or 

anyone. What we need now is not 
indeed whether I'll get there 

disarmament and people marching in 
and whether the plans still 

the streets but someone, someone 
hold and whether if they do 

active active in Spain interested 
hold I'll be able to get every- 

in modern art. Why do they all 
242/SILENCE 



thing done that I have in 



leave it? What is wrong with Spain? 



mind to do. This is our 



immediate and permanent 



condition and we just fail 



continually to notice it even 



when we think we agree. 



If, for instance, as may well 



What's doing? (Never a dull moment.) 



have been the case, if someone 



It's snowing. It began in the night. 
procrastinated, then what? 

* 

The roofs and eaves of the houses 
The obstacles I foresee to the 

are white and the natural 
fulfillment of my obligation 

tendency of the ends of the 
which is what we are doing 

branches of the hemlocks to 
are only a few. Why don't 

droop has been encouraged. The 
I see the others? Don't I 

traffic continues more or less as 
have eyes and a head and 



doggedly as it did yesterday. Are 

m 

ears? They are not as good 

What we need are machines that will 

people the way "their land and air 



as they were and also the 

enable us to do all the things we could 

is"? If so, should they not have 

• 

metabolism and perhaps they're 

do before we had them plus all the 

four or five purposes (instead of one) 

• 

getting worse. We are now 

new things we don't yet know we 

and let those interpenetrate with 

• 

told well be able to get so 

can do. Perhaps you would say we 

one another in some interesting 
So often we think that something 
far but no further and a 

are going mad. We are certainly 

natural way? For instance: this 
needs to be devious, so that we 

day ago we were told it would 



aimless or you might say that is 
WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/243 



snow is not a proper winter 
go to no end of trouble to do 
be impossible to go in that 

our aim. We are needlessly finicky 

snow. It seems more like the 
something that could be done 
direction because there was no 

when it comes to our notice that 

last one does just before spring 
straightforwardly. (In this particular 
money. There was money for 

somebody else did it before we 

arrives. But the caretaker who 
case I am obliged to do four 
the eyes but no money for 

did it. And generally speaking, it 

swept the sidewalk is already 
times as much work as I would 
the ears. They're going to do 

does come to our notice. A little 

thinking of the ice to come. 

in a conventional fulfillment of the 

it anyway and just let the 

bit of the scientific attitude, however, 

"Those stones are mighty slippery! 

same duty.) (Furthermore, Tve committed 

ears go along with the eyes 

and you soon see that what was 

There'll be more than one person 

244/SILENCE 



myself to thoughts about relevancy 

in a kind of slapdash way. 

just done was not at all what 

falls down this winter!" Bird 
and irrelevancy in addition to 
Where is their sense of urgency? 

was done before except as regards 

maddened by the length of its 
stories and subjects and where 



the general situation. There was, by 

own winter. But now (as I 

are we going and what are we doing.) 



way of example, a discontinuity of 

say elsewhere) the trees are changing 
I thought, for instance, when I 



particles, then there was emptiness 

me— my attitude towards winter 
first saw the book that it was 



( which now seems like a melody ) . 

is changing because of the way 
probably out of print even 



Just now there was raw material. Repetition? 

one can see the trees in the winter. 
though they told me it wasn't. 



What I assumed took place 
I looked for it in bookstores 



Is there a story in the fact that we 

in spring has already 

and never wrote to the publisher. 



call someone to discover that there 

taken place: the buds are 
Nor did I ask anyone to write 



is no answer? And would you say 

there on the trees already. With 
for me. However, when I met 



such a story would be relevant 

our eyes and our ears, we do 
someone who lived in the town 



or irrelevant to our subject: Where 

more by doing nothing and just 
where the book is published 



are we going? Now we have the 

giving attention to the natural 
I asked him if he'd mind 



example of a young composer 

busyness. Was what I did 
going to the publisher's office 



going into the army at a point 

interrupted by what happened? 
and finding out whether the 



in his life when going seemed 

If so, it was not contemporary 
book was available. I did say, 



really unfortunate. And yet it 

doing. And equally, it works 
"Don't take the trouble until you 



has worked out extraordinarily 

equally the other way: Does 
hear from me." Before writing 



well: a great deal of music 

what I do interrupt the 

to this person, 1 finally wrote 



has been written, lectures given, 
changes in weather? This is 
directly to the publisher and 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING?/245 



and article written and perf orm- 

a corollary to Satie's statement 
a week or so later the book 



ances, live and broadcast, given. 

about the necessity for a music 
finally arrived. Now the question 



And a raise, which involved 

which would not interrupt the 
arises (which 1 find more and 



carrying a gun which however 

sounds of knives and forks and 
more ridiculous, because the 



is never used and rarely, for 

the conversation of friends at table. 
answer could be this or that and 



that reason, requires cleaning. 

Put the two together and you 
it could be refused or accepted 



He had done what he could to keep 

have an American Picnic. 

by something no more solid than 



from getting in it. But once in, 
246/SILENCE 



You know what this absence of 
a whim): the question arises: 



going along as usual with 
boredom does? It turns each 
What can be said to be 



changes, very interesting changes. 

waking hour musical just as 
irrelevant and what can be 



We are going in such a way that 

for years now (on the street), in 
said to be relevant and what 



even if we do what we would 

the woods, wherever (I remember 
keeps a story from becoming a 



if we liked (as though entranced), 

pavement waiting for a bus), each 
subject and indeed vice versa? 



our activity meets with alter- 

place is an active exhibition. 



ation. It is entirely possible that I 



cross the room to burst a balloon 



which when I was not looking 



was removed. In such a case, 



would it not have been more 



realistic of me to have gone 



across the room with nothing in 
We cannot know now 

mind about balloons and burst- 

whether we are continuing or 

WHERE ARE WE GO 



ing them? ( They will tell us 
whether shortly there's going 

in that case that it is not 
to be an interruption, after 

music but some kind of choreo- 
which we will pick up where 

graphy. ) However, it is music 
we left off. We have a way 

the way it's apt to be going. 

of knowing but we are conscientious- 

We're not going to go on playing 
ly not using it. We are 

games, even if the rules are 
cultivating disorder in ourselves. 

NG? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/247 



downright fascinating. We re- 



Perhaps this seems ridiculous 



quire a situation more like 



but it seems sensible when we 



it really is — no rules at all. 



see that the order we cultivated 



Only when we make them 

was also of our own making. So 

"This has nothing to do with it," 

do it in our labs do crystals 

• 

in a sense we are simply doing 

we say, but it is descriptive 

win our games. Do they then? I wonder. 

• 

what we left undone, but we 
of what we are doing and where 



are not extending our knowledge. 

we are going that we doubt 

248/SILENCE 



We are learning to say, "I dorit 
whether we could verify our 



know." Another way to say is: 

statement. We know perfectly 



"We don't need a release because 

well now that this has 



we are in release." We noticed 
something very much to do 



in foreign countries a vast 

with everything else. That 



difference between occasions, between 

that seems gray, undifferentiated, 



strictness and freedom, and we 

inarticulate to us only 



are smoothing out that difference 

repeats what nineteenth-century 



mostly by making things which 

criticism had to say for 



seem to be boring. ("They are not 

the musics of India and 



boring but very interesting") 

China. Everything is articulated. 



I think the knowledge as it 

We don't have to do it. In fact, 



gets extended (and you see that 

the sharpness increases as we 



I mean information) will get 

lay hands off. There are 



into books that will be read 

temptations for us to stop 



not by us but by machines, because 

what we're doing and make 



there will by that time be too many. 

a connection that will 



As it is now, there is only one 

be overwhelming. Well, perhaps 



secretary. When the phone 

it is. I haven't seen yet. 



rings, she has to run down 
I've seen some. But I'm 



the hall to discover whether 

losing my ability to make 



so and so is in or out, and 
/HERE ARE ING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/249 



connections because the ones 



then come back alone or 

I do make so belittle the 



accompanied as the case may 

natural complexity. Now 



be. That is a kind of inefficiency. 
and then I'll file things 



The other kind is connected with 

away ( there is a file and 



Another thing we're doing is 
the fact that the windows 
I can use the alphabet, even 



leaving the things that are in us 
cannot be opened. Perhaps telephones 

though the secretary only 



in us. We are leaving our emotions 

in graduated sizes would solve the problem. 

went as far as S and since 

250/SILENCE 



where they are in each one of us. One of 

m 

she's not English-speaking 

ms is not trying to put his emo- 
by birth— that is, her own 

tion into someone else. That way 
alphabet was different from 

you "rouse rabbles"; it seems on 
ours— she's got some of 

the surface humane, but it 
the letters in the file upside 

animalizes, and we're not doing 
down. I can use them, though, 

it. The cool other thing we 
right side up or upside down. 



are also not doing: that is, 
When I get everything put 

making constructions of relation- 

9 

away, then the housekeeper 

ships that are observed by us. 
can come in and dust. 

That faculty of observing relation- 
By that time I trust the 

ships we are also leaving in 
bulbs will have started 

us, not putting the observation 

9 

sprouting. Now they are in 

of one into the other who, it goes 
the dark where we are. Satie's 



without saying, see things from his 

9 

remark to the tree will do but 
own point of view which is 

9 

I am not certain any one 

different from another's. We 
of us remembers it. Something 

can of course converse (and do) 

9 

about never having done any 

and we can say: "Stand where 
harm or any good either 

I stand and look over there and 

9 

to anyone. It was while 

see what I see." This is called 
he was on one of his return 



lordly entertainment, but we do 
WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING?/251 



nocturnal walks home. 

Last year I gave a concert and answered 

not thereby pull ourselves up 



questions afterwards. This year some- 

by our bootstraps nor do we see. 



one said, "I was present at your lecture 

Thus in his teaching, he makes 



and hope to have the chance sometime to 

presents silently, and it is only 



hear your music." How can you tell 

because I am slow-witted that, 



whether someone's going or staying? 

in impatience, he gives hints, 



If he says, speaking of three things, 

suggestions. We are all 

• 

252/SILENCE 



"Put this in the foreground and the others 

so busy, we have no time for 



in the background," you know he's 

one another. By keeping things 



staying. If, however, he says, 
in that are in and letting those 



"I can't find any place to divide 

things that are out stay out, a 



it; in fact, I don't know how big 

paradox takes place: it becomes 



it is and as a matter of fact I'm 

a simple matter to make an 



just using the word 'it' as a 

identification with someone or 



convenience because I don't know 

something. But this is virtually 



anything about it," you know he's go- 

impossible in terms of ideas and 



ing. In the field and where he 

feelings. Purposeless play there is un- 



goes, there go we. There are times 

Bodhisattvic and only leads to a conflagra- 



when I get out of the house 

tion, a more or less catastrophic 
That he enjoyed going to the 



with the jacket on that belongs 

social situation, public or 

movies is interesting. (She doesn't.) 



to the pants that are still hanging in the closet. 

private, that has brought down 
And that he liked to sit in the 



on our heads the arm of the 
front row, which gave him the 



law (it was such employment 
feeling of a shower bath. Our 



of feelings and ideas letting 
family doctor brought himself back 



them go out that brings about 
from blindness by sitting in the 



naturally the consequence of 
front row at movies (together 



police and don't do this and the 
with staring at the sun). 



entire web of rules). But what 
Some people are coming out 



WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING?/253 



we are doing is in our ways of art 
of church and others are on their 



to breathe again in our lives anarchistically. 
way in. Apparently it's continuous. 






254/SILENCE 



When they wanted to photograph 



her, they asked her what she could 



do. She said she could put on 



can do is this or that at the 



drop of a hat. Actually what 



we do is drop one hat and pick 



up another. It is as though 



we were painting on silk 



and could not erase. And 



yet erasing quite completely 
her hat or take it off. What we 

WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/255 



is one of the easiest things now 



for us to do. Are we then 

It is not a question of decisions and 

erasing as though it were on 

the willingness or fear to make them. 

silk? And do we just abandon 
It is that we are impermanently 

rather than finish a work? 
part and parcel of all. We are 

It sounds as though that were 
involved in a life that passes 

what we are doing but where 

understanding and our highest 
256/SILENCE 



would we go if we abandoned 



business is our daily life. To draw 



something? We only have to 



lines straight or curved anywhere 



change our means of measuring 



does not alter the situation, only 



to see how close we are to what 



affirms it — if indeed the lines are 



we were doing. It is not an 



drawn, I mean materially. If 



object; it is a process and it 



not, they were drawn in a mind 



will go on probably for some 



to which there is no entry. Let 



time. It is difficult to know 

mysteries remain. Even in desperation 

whether we will ever forget 
we fail to convey our thoughts, 

all the things that objects made 
our feelings. It is because a 

us memorize. However, let us 
line-drawing mind is one bent 

be optimistic and giddy with 
on closure whereas the only 

the possibility— the possibility 
means of getting out ( above or 

of having everything clearly 
below ) to another is by not 



what it is, going on consuming 
drawing lines, by keeping the 

and generously giving and 
doors open, by some fluent 

finding time to find our access 
disclosure, and then there is no 

to revelation. Now of course 
desperation. Another way of 

everything is canceled, not canceled 
saying it is: "Do not be 

but postponed, not on silk 
satisfied with approximations 

and not erased. There is 

( or just: Do not be satisfied ) but insist 



still the question of time and 
WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/257 



( as you need not) on what comes 



the old and the new and 



to you." This morning, up neither 



whether we'll all get there 



early nor late, aware that what- 



where we're going but we'll 

ever it is is still with me — a 

Therefore, perhaps, we make things 

• 

never be sure who was coming 

feeling that the flesh around my 

that are irritatingly worse than 

• 

in the first place. There'll 

eyes is swollen — perhaps a 

we would want them to be in our 

• 

probably be some new faces. We 

cold — or the glasses which are 
lives, if therapy, a kind of pre- 

• 

want to get together (if not 
258/SILENCE 



new and which the oculist said 

ventative therapy. And now the 

• 

here, in the South) but we're 

wouldn't be useful after three 

question of structure, the division of a 

• 

going in different directions. Do 

years; at any rate I did get 

whole into parts. We no longer 

• 

you suppose anything will get worked out? 

up and was told the telephone 

make that and I have given our 



had been ringing and then that 

reasons elsewhere (here too). What 



a friend was ready and waiting 

it is is a situation in which 



to go mushrooming. The night 

grandeur can rub shoulders with 



before I'd scheduled my time for 



frivolity. (Now I am speak- 



not just today but the week 

ing to the man at the 



and realized clearly that if I'd 

other end of the hall.) At any 



just stick to it I'd get it done — 

rate, now structure is not put 



this lecture I mean — however, 

into a work, but comes up in 



I called and said, "An egg and 

the person who perceives it in 



then I'm with you." Presently 

himself. There is therefore no problem of 



in a few weeks they'd be in 



the Caribbean with all the 



children. In my mind's eye 



I was hunting for tropical fungi. 



Now I'm back working. There 



was also a biological puzzle and a dis- 



cussion of the proper use of knives and forks, 
in the woods and she said 

understanding but the possibility of awareness. 

WHERE ARE WE GOING? AND WHAT ARE WE DOING7/259 



Late in September of 1958, in a hotel in Stockholm, I set about writing this 
lecture for delivery a week later at the Brussels Fair. I recalled a remark made 
years earlier by David Tudor that I should give a talk that was nothing 
but stories. The idea was appealing, but 1 had never acted on it, 
and I decided to do so now. 

When the talk was given in Brussels, it consisted of only thirty stories, 
without musical accompaniment. A recital by David Tudor and myself of music 
for two pianos followed the lecture. The full title was Indeterminacy: 
New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music. 
Karlheinz Stockhausen was in the audience. Later, when I was in Milan 
making the Fontana Mix at the Studio di Fonologia, I received a letter from 
him asking for a text that could be printed in Die Reihe No. 5. 
I sent the Brussels talk, and it was published. 



INDETERMINACY 



The following spring, back in America, I delivered the talk again, 
at Teachers College, Columbia. For this occasion I wrote sixty more stories, 
and there was a musical accompaniment by David Tudor— material from the 
Concert for Piano and Orchestra, employing several radios as noise 
elements. Soon thereafter these ninety stories were brought out as a Folkways 
recording, but for this the noise elements in the Concert were tracks 
from the Fontana Mix. 

In oral delivery of this lecture, I tell one story a minute. If it's a short one, 
I have to spread it out; when I come to a long one, I have to speak as 
rapidly as I can. The continuity of the stories as recorded was not planned. 
I simply made a list of all the stories I could think of and checked them off as 
I wrote them. Some that I remembered I was not able to write to my 
satisfaction, and so they were not used. My intention in putting the stories 
together in an unplanned way was to suggest that all things— stories, incidental 
sounds from the environment, and, by extension, beings— are related, and 
that this complexity is more evident when it is not oversimplified by an 
idea of relationship in one persons mind. 

Since that recording, I have continued to write down stories as I have 
found them, so that the number is now far more than ninety. Most concern 
things that happened that stuck in my mind. Others I read in books and 
remembered— those, for instance, from Sri Ramakrishna and the literature 
surrounding Zen. Still others have been told me by friends— Merce Cunningham, 
Virgil Thomson, Betty Isaacs, and many more. Xenia, who figures in several 
of them, is Xenia Andreyevna Kashevaroff, to whom I was married for 
some ten years. 



260/SILENCE 



Some stories have been omitted since their substance forms part of other 
writings in this volume. Many of those that remain are to be found below. 
Others are scattered through the book, playing the function that odd bits of 
information play at the ends of columns in a small-town newspaper. I suggest 
that they be read in the manner and in the situations that one reads 
newspapers— even the metropolitan ones— when he does so purposelessly: 
that is, jumping here and there and responding at the same time to 
environmental events and sounds. 



When I first went to Paris, I did so instead of 
returning to Pomona College for my junior year. 
As I looked around, it was Gothic architecture 
that impressed me most. And of that architecture 
I preferred the flamboyant style of the fifteenth 
century. In this style my interest was attracted by 
balustrades. These I studied for six weeks in the 
Bibliotheque Mazarin, getting to the library when 
the doors were opened and not leaving until they 
were closed. Professor Pijoan, whom I had known 
at Pomona, arrived in Paris and asked me what I 
was doing. (We were standing in one of the rail- 
way stations there. ) I told him. He gave me liter- 
ally a swift kick in the pants and then said, "Go 
tomorrow to Goldfinger. I'll arrange for you to 
work with him. He's a modern architect." After 
a month of working with Goldfinger, measuring 
the dimensions of rooms which he was to modern- 
ize, answering the telephone, and drawing Greek 
columns, I overheard Goldfinger saying, "To be 
an architect, one must devote one's life solely to 
architecture." I then left him, for, as I explained, 
there were other things that interested me, music 
and painting for instance. 

Five years later, when Schoenberg asked me 
whether I would devote my life to music, I said, 
"Of course." After I had been studying with him 
for two years, Schoenberg said, "In order to write 
music, you must have a feeling for harmony." I 
explained to him that I had no feeling for har- 
mony. He then said that I would always en- 
counter an obstacle, that it would be as though I 
came to a wall through which I could not pass. I 



said, "In that case I will devote my life to beating 
my head against that wall." 

When I first moved to the country, David 
Tudor, M. C. Richards, the Weinribs, and I all 
lived in the same small farmhouse. In order to get 
some privacy I started taking walks in the woods. 
It was August. I began collecting the mushrooms 
which were growing more or less everywhere. 
Then I bought some books and tried to find out 
which mushroom was which. Realizing I needed 
to get to know someone who knew something 
about mushrooms, I called the 4-H Club in New 
City. I spoke to a secretary. She said they'd call 
me back. They never did. 

The following spring, after reading about the 
edibility of skunk cabbage in Medsger's book on 
wild plants, I gathered a mess of what I took to 
be skunk cabbage, gave some to my mother and 
father (who were visiting) to take home, cooked 
the rest in three waters with a pinch of soda as 
Medsger advises, and served it to six people, one 
of whom, I remember, was from the Museum of 
Modern Art. I ate more than the others did in an 
attempt to convey my enthusiasm over edible wild 
plants. After coffee, poker was proposed. I began 
winning heavily. M. C. Richards left the table. 
After a while she came back and whispered in my 
ear, "Do you feel all right?" I said, "No. I don't. 
My throat is burning and I can hardly breathe." 
I told the others to divide my winnings, that I was 
folding. I went outside and retched. Vomiting 
with diarrhea continued for about two hours. Be- 

INDETERMINACY/261 



fore I lost my will, I told M. C. Richards to call 
Mother and Dad and tell them not to eat the 
skunk cabbage. I asked her how the others were. 
She said, "They're not as bad off as you are." 
Later, when friends lifted me off the ground to 
put a blanket under me, I just said, "Leave me 
alone." Someone called Dr. Zukor. He prescribed 
milk and salt. I couldn't take it. He said, "Get 
him here immediately." They did. He pumped 
my stomach and gave adrenalin to keep my 
heart beating. Among other things, he said, 
"Fifteen minutes more and he would have been 
dead." 

I was removed to the Spring Valley hospital. 
There during the night I was kept supplied with 
adrenalin and I was thoroughly cleaned out. In 
the morning I felt like a million dollars. I rang 
the bell for the nurse to tell her I was ready to 
go. No one came. I read a notice on the wall 
which said that unless one left by noon he would 
be charged for an extra day. When I saw one 
of the nurses passing by I yelled something to 
the effect that she should get me out since I had 
no money for a second day. Shortly the room was 
filled with doctors and nurses and in no time at 
all I was hustled out. 

I called up the 4-H Club and told them what 
had happened. I emphasized my determination 
to go on with wild mushrooms. They said, "Call 
Mrs. Clark on South Mountain Drive." She said, 
"I can't help you. Call Mr. So-and-so." I called 
him. He said, "I can't help you, but call So-and- 
so who works in the A&P in Suffern. He knows 
someone in Ramsey who knows the mushrooms." 
Eventually, I got the name and telephone number 
of Guy G. Nearing. When I called him, he said, 
"Come over any time you like. I'm almost always 
here, and I'll name your mushrooms for you." 

I wrote a letter to Medsger telling him skunk 
cabbage was poisonous. He never replied. Some 
time later I read about the need to distinguish 
between skunk cabbage and the poisonous helle- 



bore. They grow at the same time in the same 
places. Hellebore has pleated leaves. Skunk cab- 
bage does not. 

During recent years Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki 
has done a great deal of lecturing at Columbia 
University. First he was in the Department of 
Religion, then somewhere else. Finally he settled 
down on the seventh floor of Philosophy Hall. 
The room had windows on two sides, a large 
table in the middle with ash trays. There were 
chairs around the table and next to the walls. 
These were always filled with people listening, 
and there were generally a few people standing 
near the door. The two or three people who took 
the class for credit sat in chairs around the table. 
The time was four to seven. During this period 
most people now and then took a little nap. 
Suzuki never spoke loudly. When the weather 
was good the windows were open, and the air- 
planes leaving La Guardia flew directly over- 
head from time to time, drowning out whatever 
he had to say. He never repeated what had been 
said during the passage of the airplane. Three 
lectures I remember in particular. While he was 
giving them I couldn't for the life of me figure 
out what he was saying. It was a week or so later, 
while I was walking in the woods looking for 
mushrooms, that it all dawned on me. 

Patsy Davenport heard my Folkways record. 
She said, "When the story came about my asking 
you how you felt about Bach, I could remember 
everything perfecdy clearly, sharply, as though 
I were living through it again. Tell me, what did 
you answer? How do you feel about Bach?" I 
said I didn't remember what I'd said — that 
I'd been nonplused. Then, as usual, when the next 
day came, I got to thinking. Giving up Beethoven, 
the emotional climaxes and all, is fairly simple for 
an American. But giving up Bach is more difficult. 
Bach's music suggests order and glorifies for those 



262/SILENCE 



who hear it their regard for order, which in their 
lives is expressed by daily jobs nine to five and 
the appliances with which they surround them- 
selves and which, when plugged in, God willing, 
work. Some people say that art should be an in- 
stance of order so that it will save them momen- 
tarily from the chaos that they know is just 
around the corner. Jazz is equivalent to Bach 
(steady beat, dependable motor), and the love of 
Bach is generally coupled with the love of jazz. 
Jazz is more seductive, less moralistic than Bach. 
It popularizes the pleasures and pains of the phys- 
ical life, whereas Bach is close to church and all 
that. Knowing as we do that so many jazz mu- 
sicians stay up to all hours and even take dope, 
we permit ourselves to become, sympathetically 
at least, junkies and night owls ourselves: by 
participation mystique. Giving up Bach, jazz, and 
order is difficult. Patsy Davenport is right. It's a 
very serious question. For if we do it — give them 
up, that is — what do we have left? 

Once when I was a child in Los Angeles I 
went downtown on the streetcar. It was such a 
hot day that, when I got out of the streetcar, the 
tar on the pavement stuck to my feet. (I was 
barefoot.) Getting to the sidewalk, I found it so 
hot that I had to run to keep from blistering my 
feet. I went into a five and dime to get a root 
beer. When I came to the counter where it was 
sold from a large barrel and asked for some, a 
man standing on the counter high above me said, 
"Wait. I'm putting in the syrup and it'll be a few 
minutes." As he was putting in the last can, he 
missed and spilled the sticky syrup all over me. 
To make me feel better, he offered a free root 
beer. I said, "No, thank you." 

Betty Isaacs told me that when she was in 
New Zealand she was informed that none of the 
mushrooms growing wild there was poisonous. So 
one day when she noticed a hillside covered with 



fungi, she gathered a lot and made catsup. When 
she finished the catsup, she tasted it and it was 
awful. Nevertheless she bottled it and put it up 
on a high shelf. A year later she was houseclean- 
ing and discovered the catsup, which she had 
forgotten about. She was on the point of throwing 
it away. But before doing this she tasted it. It 
had changed color. Originally a dirty gray, it had 
become black, and, as she told me, it was divine, 
improving the flavor of whatever it touched. 

George Mantor had an iris garden, which he 
improved each year by throwing out the com- 
moner varieties. One day his attention was called 
to another very fine iris garden. Jealously he made 
some inquiries. The garden, it turned out, be- 
longed to the man who collected his garbage. 

Staying in India and finding the sun unbear- 
able, Mrs. Coomaraswamy decided to shop for a 
parasol. She found two in the town nearby. One 
was in the window of a store dealing in American 
goods. It was reasonably priced but unattractive. 
The other was in an Indian store. It was Indian- 
made, desirable, but outlandishly expensive. Mrs. 
Coomaraswamy went back home without buying 
anything. But the weather continued dry and hot, 
so that a few days later she went again into town 
determined to make a purchase. Passing by the 
American shop, she noticed their parasol was still 
in the window, still reasonably priced. Going into 
the Indian shop, she asked to see the one she had 
admired a few days before. While she was looking 
at it, the price was mentioned. This time it was 
absurdly low. Surprised, Mrs. Coomaraswamy 
said, "How can I trust you? One day your prices 
are up; the next day they're down. Perhaps your 
goods are equally undependable." "Madame," the 
storekeeper replied, "the people across the street 
are new in business. They are intent on profit. 
Their prices are stable. We, however, have been 
in business for generations. The best things we 



INDETERMINACY/263 



have we keep in the family, for we are reluctant 
to part with them. As for our prices, we change 
them continually. That's the only way we've 
found in business to keep ourselves interested." 

There's a street in Stony Point in a lowland 
near the river where a number of species of mush- 
rooms grow abundantly. I visit this street often. 
A few years ago in May I found the morel there, 
a choice mushroom which is rare around Rock- 
land County. I was delighted. None of the people 
living on this street ever talk to me while I'm 
collecting mushrooms. Sometimes children come 
over and kick at them before I get to them. Well, 
the year after I found the morel, I went back in 
May expecting to find it again, only to discover 
that a cinder-block house had been put up where 
the mushroom had been growing. As I looked at 
the changed land, all the people in the neighbor- 
hood came out on their porches. One of them said, 
"Ha, ha! Your mushrooms are gone." 

We are all part and parcel of a way of life 
that puts trust in the almighty dollar— so much so 
that we feel ourselves slipping when we hear that 
on the international market the West German 
mark inspires more confidence. Food, one as- 
sumes, provides nourishment; but Americans eat 
it fully aware that small amounts of poison have 
been added to improve its appearance and delay 
its putrefaction. None of us wants cancer or skin 
diseases, but there are those who tell us that's 
how we get them. It's hard to tell, come Decem- 
ber, whether we're celebrating the birth of Christ 
or whether American business has simply pulled 
the wool over our eyes. When I hear that an 
artist whose work I admire gets $7000 for a paint- 
ing whereas another whose work I don't admire 
gets twice as much, do I then change my mind? 
Ten years ago the New York painters were for the 
most part poor as church mice. Did they then or 
do they now have a place in American society? 

264/SILENCE 



Coming back from an all-Ives concert we'd 
attended in Connecticut, Minna Lederman said 
that by separating his insurance business from his 
composition of music (as completely as day is 
separated from night), Ives paid full respect to 
the American assumption that the artist has no 
place in society. (When Mother first heard my 
percussion quartet years ago in Santa Monica, she 
said, "I enjoyed it, but where are you going to 
put it?") But music is, or was at one time, Amer- 
ica's sixth-largest industry— above or below steel, 
I don't remember which. Schoenberg used to say 
that the movie composers knew their business 
very well. Once he asked those in the class who 
intended to become professional musicians to put 
up their hands. No one did. (Uncle Walter in- 
sisted when he married her that Aunt Marge, who 
was a contralto, should give up her career.) My 
bet is that the phenomenal prices paid for paint- 
ings in New York at the present time have less to 
do with art than with business. The lady who 
lived next door in Santa Monica told me the 
painting she had in her dining room was worth 
lots of money. She mentioned an astronomical 
sum. I said, "How do you know?" She said she'd 
seen a small painting worth a certain amount, 
measured it, measured hers (which was much 
larger), multiplied, and that was that. 

Mrs. Coomaraswamy told another story about 
business methods in India. It seems that early one 
morning she was at a kind of craftsmen's bazaar. 
There were fewer shops available than there were 
craftsmen. So a poetry contest was arranged. The 
one who made up the best poem got the shop. 
The losers were going away quite contented re- 
citing the winning poem. She asked them why 
they were so pleased since they were actually un- 
fortunate. They said, "Oh, it's no matter. When 
his goods are sold he'll have no use for the shop. 
Then one more of us will get a chance to sell 
what he has, and so on." 



Lois Long (the Lois Long who designs tex- 
tiles), Christian Wolff, and I climbed Slide Moun- 
tain along with Guy Nearing and the Flemings, 
including Wilhe. All the way up and down the 
mountain we found nothing but Collybia platy- 
phylla, so that I began to itch to visit a cemetery 
in Millerton, New York, where, in my mind's eye, 
Pluteus cervinus was growing. By the time we 
got back to the cars, our knees were shaking with 
fatigue and the sun had gone down. Nevertheless, 
I managed to persuade Lois Long and Christian 
Wolff to drive over to Millerton. It meant an extra 
hundred miles. We arrived at the cemetery at 
midnight. I took a flashlight out of the glove com- 
partment, got out, and first hastily and then care- 
fully examined all the stumps and the ground 
around them. There wasn't a single mushroom 
growing. Going back to the car, I fully expected 
Lois Long and Christian Wolff to be exasperated. 
However, they were entranced. The aurora bore- 
alis, which neither of them had ever seen before, 
was playing in the northern sky. 

I dug up some hog peanuts and boiled them 
with butter, salt, and pepper for Bob Rauschen- 
berg and Jasper Johns. I was anxious to know 
what Jasper Johns would think of them because 
I knew he liked boiled peanuts. I was curious to 
know whether he would find a similarity between 
boiled peanuts and hog peanuts. Most people in 
the North have no experience at all of boiled 
peanuts. People who've had hog peanuts speak 
afterwards of the taste of chestnuts and beans. 
Anyway, Jasper Johns said they were very good 
but that they didn't taste particularly like boiled 
peanuts. Then he went down to South Carolina 
for a few weeks in November. When I saw him 
after he got back, he said he'd had boiled peanuts 
again and that they tasted very much like hog 
peanuts. 

Artists talk a lot about freedom. So, recalling 
the expression "free as a bird," Morton Feldman 



went to a park one day and spent some time 
watching our feathered friends. When he came 
back, he said, "You know? They're not free: 
they're fighting over bits of food." 

I was asked to play my Sonatas and Inter- 
ludes in the home of an elderly lady in Burnsville, 
North Carolina, the only person thereabouts who 
owned a grand piano. I explained that the piano 
preparation would take at least three hours and 
that I would need a few additional hours for prac- 
ticing before the performance. It was arranged for 
me to start work directly after lunch. After about 
an hour, I decided to take a breather. I fit a ciga- 
rette and went out on the veranda, where I found 
my hostess sitting in a rocking chair. We began 
chatting. She asked me where I came from. I told 
her that I'd been born in Los Angeles but that as 
a child I was raised both there and in Michigan; 
that after two years of college in Claremont, Cali- 
fornia, I had spent eighteen months in Europe 
and North Africa; that, after returning to Califor- 
nia, I had moved first from Santa Monica to 
Carmel, then to New York, then back to Los 
Angeles, then to Seattle, San Francisco, and Chi- 
cago, successively; that, at the moment, I was liv- 
ing in New York in an apartment on the East 
River. Then I said, "And where do you come 
from?" She said, pointing to a gas station across 
the street, "From over there." She went on to say 
that one of her sons had tried to persuade her to 
make a second move, for now she lived alone ex- 
cept for the servants, and to come and five with 
him and his family. She said she refused because 
she wouldn't feel at home in a strange place. 
When I asked where he lived, she said, "A few 
blocks down the street." 

On one occasion, Schoenberg asked a girl in 
his class to go to the piano and play the first move- 
ment of a Beethoven sonata, which was after- 
wards to be analyzed. She said, "It is too difficult. 



INDETERMINACY/265 



I can't play it." Schoenberg said, "You're a pianist, 
aren't you?" She said, "Yes." He said, "Then go to 
the piano." She did. She had no sooner begun 
playing than he stopped her to say that she was 
not playing at the proper tempo. She said that if 
she played at the proper tempo, she would make 
mistakes. He said, "Play at the proper tempo and 
do not make mistakes." She began again, and he 
stopped her immediately to say that she was mak- 
ing mistakes. She then burst into tears and between 
sobs explained that she had gone to the dentist 
earlier that day and that she'd had a tooth pulled 
out. He said, "Do you have to have a tooth pulled 
out in order to make mistakes?" 

There was a lady in Suzuki's class who said 
once, "I have great difficulty reading the sermons 
of Meister Eckhart, because of all the Christian 
imagery." Dr. Suzuki said, "That difficulty will 
disappear." 

Betty Isaacs went shopping at Altaian's. She 
spent all her money except her last dime, which 
she kept in her hand so that she'd have it ready 
when she got on the bus to go home and wouldn't 
have to fumble around in her purse since her arms 
were full of parcels and she was also carrying a 
shopping bag. Waiting for the bus, she decided to 
make sure she still had the coin. When she opened 
her hand, there was nothing there. She mentally 
retraced her steps trying to figure out where she'd 
lost the dime. Her mind made up, she went 
straight to the glove department, and sure enough 
there it was on the floor where she'd been stand- 
ing. As she stooped to pick it up, another shopper 
said, "I wish I knew where to go to pick money 
up off the floor." Relieved, Betty Isaacs took the 
bus home to the Village. Unpacking her parcels, 
she discovered the dime in the bottom of the 
shopping bag. 

When David Tudor, Merce Cunningham, 
Carolyn and Earle Brown, and I arrived in Brus- 



sels a year or so ago for programs at the World's 
Fair, we found out that Earle Brown's Indices was 
not going to be played since the orchestra found 
it too difficult. So, putting two and two together, 
we proposed that Merce Cunningham and Caro- 
lyn Brown dance solos and duets from Merce 
Cunningham's Springweather and People (which 
is his tide for Earle Brown's Indices) and that 
David Tudor play the piano transcription as ac- 
companiment. With great difficulty, arrangements 
were made to realize this proposal. At the last 
minute the authorities agreed. However, just be- 
fore the performance, the Pope died and every- 
thing was canceled. 

One day down at Black Mountain College, 
David Tudor was eating his lunch. A student 
came over to his table and began asking him ques- 
tions. David Tudor went on eating his lunch. The 
student kept on asking questions. Finally David 
Tudor looked at him and said, "If you don't know, 
why do you ask?" 

When David Tudor and I walked into the 
hotel where we were invited to stay in Brussels, 
there were large envelopes for each of us at the 
desk; they were full of programs, tickets, invita- 
tions, special passes to the Fair, and general in- 
formation. One of the invitations I had was to a 
luncheon at the royal palace adjacent to the Fair 
Grounds. I was to reply, but I didn't because I 
was busy with rehearsals, performances, and the 
writing of thirty of these stories, which I was to 
deliver as a lecture in the course of the week de- 
voted to experimental music. So one day when I 
was coming into the hotel, the desk attendant 
asked me whether I expected to go to the palace 
for lunch the following day. I said, "Yes." Over 
the phone, he said, "He's coming." And then he 
checked my name off a fist in front of him. He 
asked whether I knew the plans of others on the 
fist, which by that time I was reading upside 



266/SILENCE 



down. I helped him as best I could. The next 
morning when I came down for breakfast there 
was a man from Paris associated as physicist with 
Schaeffer's studio for musique concrete. I said, 
"Well, I'll be seeing you at luncheon today." He 
said, "What luncheon?" I said, "At the palace." 
He said, "I haven't been invited." I said, "I'm sure 
you are invited. I saw your name on the list. You'd 
better call them up; they're anxious to know who's 
coming." An hour later the phone rang for me. It 
was the director of the week's events. He said, 
"I've just found out that you've invited Dr. So- 
and-So to the luncheon." I said I'd seen his name 
on the list. The director said, "You've made a mis- 
take and I am able to correct it, but what I'd like 
to know is: How many others have you also 
invited?" 

An Indian woman who lived in the islands 
was required to come to Juneau to testify in a 
trial. After she had solemnly sworn to tell the 
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, 
she was asked whether she had been subpoenaed. 
She said, "Yes. Once on the boat coming over, 
and once in the hotel here in Juneau." 

I took a number of mushrooms to Guy 
Nearing, and asked him to name them for me. He 
did. On my way home, I began to doubt whether 
one particular mushroom was what he had called 
it. When I got home I got out my books and came 
to the conclusion that Guy Nearing had made a 
mistake. The next time I saw him I told him all 
about this and he said, "There are so many Latin 
names rolling around in my head that sometimes 
the wrong one comes out." 

A depressed young man came to see Hazel 
Dreis, the bookbinder. He said, "I've decided to 
commit suicide." She said, "I think it's a good 
idea. Why don't you do it?" 



David Tudor and I went up to New Haven 
to do a television class for the New Haven State 
Teachers College. That college specializes in teach- 
ing by means of television. What they do is to 
make a tape, audio and visual, and then broad- 
cast it at a later date early in the morning. In the 
course of my talking, I said something about the 
purpose of purposelessness. Afterwards, one of the 
teachers said to the head of the Music Depart- 
ment, "How are you going to explain that to the 
class next Tuesday?" Anyway, we finished the TV 
business, drove back to the school, and I asked the 
teachers to recommend some second-hand book- 
stores in New Haven for David Tudor and me to 
visit. They did. A half -hour later when we walked 
into one of them, the book dealer said, "Mr. 
Tudor? Mr. Cage?" I said, "Yes?" He said, "You're 
to call the State Teachers College." I did. They 
said the television class we had recorded had not 
been recorded at all. Apparently someone forgot 
to turn something on. 

On the way back from New Haven we were 
driving along the Housatonic. It was a beautiful 
day. We stopped to have dinner but the restau- 
rants at the river's edge turned out not to be res- 
taurants at all but dark, run-down bars with, 
curiously, no views of the river. So we drove on 
to Newtown, where we saw many cars parked 
around a restaurant that appeared to have a Colo- 
nial atmosphere. I said, "All those cars are a good 
sign. Let's eat there." When we got in, we were 
in a large dining room with very few other people 
eating. The waitress seemed slightiy giddy. David 
Tudor ordered some ginger ale, and after quite a 
long time was served some Coca-Cola, which he 
refused. Later we both ordered parfaits; mine was 
to be chocolate, his to be strawberry. As the wait- 
ress entered the kitchen, she shouted, "Two choc- 
olate parfaits." When David Tudor explained to 
her later that he had ordered strawberry, she said, 
"They made some mistake in the kitchen." I said, 



INDETERMINACY/267 



"There must be another dining room in this build- 
ing with a lot of people eating in it." The waitress 
said, "Yes. It's downstairs and there are only two 
of us for each floor and we keep running back and 
forth." 

Then we had to go back to New Haven to do 
the TV class over again. This time on the way 
back it was a very hot and humid day. We stopped 
again in Newtown, but at a different place, for 
some ice. There was a choice: raspberry, grape, 
lemon, orange, and pineapple. I took grape. It 
was refreshing. I asked the lady who served it 
whether she had made it. She said, "Yes." I said, 
"Is it fresh fruit?" She said, "It's not fresh, but 
it's fruit." 

Mr. Ralph Ferrara drives a Studebaker Lark 
which is mashed at both ends. Sometimes the car 
requires to be pushed in order to run. One Sunday 
when the mushroom class met at 10:00 A.M. at 
Suffem, Mr. Ferrara didn't arrive. Next week he 
told me he'd arrived late, gone to Sloatsburg, 
gathered a few mushrooms, gone home, cooked 
dinner, and two of his guests were immediately 
ill but not seriously. At the last mushroom field 
trip, November 1, 1959, we ended at my house, 
drank some stone fences, and ate some Cortinarius 
alboviolaceous that Lois Long cooked. She said to 
Ralph Ferrara, "Mr. Cage says that there's noth- 
ing like a little mushroom poisoning to make peo- 
ple be on time." He said, "Oh, yes. I'm always 
first in the parking lot." 

While I was studying the frozen food depart- 
ment of Gristede's one day, Mrs. Elliott Carter 
came up and said, "Hello, John. I thought you 
touched only fresh foods." I said, "All you have to 
do is look at them and then you come over here." 
She said, "Elliott and I have just gotten back from 
Europe. We'd sublet to some intellectuals whose 
names I won't mention. They had been eating 



those platters with all sorts of food on them." I 
said, "Not TV dinners?" She said, "Yes, I found 
them stuffed around everywhere." 

When I came to New York to study with 
Adolph Weiss and Henry Cowell, I took a job in 
the Brooklyn YWCA washing walls. There was 
one other wall-washer. He was more experienced 
than I. He told me how many walls to wash per 
day. In this way he checked my original enthu- 
siasm, with the result that I spent a great deal of 
time simply reading the old newspapers which I 
used to protect the floors. Thus I had always to 
be, so to speak, on my toes, ready to resume scrub- 
bing the moment I heard the housekeeper ap- 
proaching. One room finished, I was to go to the 
next, but before entering any room I was to look 
in the keyhole to see whether the occupant's key 
was in it on the inside. If I saw no key, I was to 
assume the room empty, go in, and set to work. 
One morning, called to the office, I was told I had 
been accused of peeking through the keyholes. I 
no sooner began to defend myself than I was in- 
terrupted. The housekeeper said that each year 
the wall-washer, no matter who he was, was so 
accused, always by the same lady. 

Standing in line, Max Jacob said, gives one 
the opportunity to practice patience. 

Mr. Romanoff is in the mushroom class. He is 
a pharmacist and takes color slides of the fungi 
we find. It was he who picked up a mushroom I 
brought to the first meeting of the class at the 
New School, smelled it, and said, "Has anyone 
perfumed this mushroom?" Lois Long said, "I 
don't think so." With each plant Mr. Romanoff's 
pleasure is, as one might say, like that of a child. 
(However, now and then children come on the 
field trips and they don't show particular delight 
over what is found. They try to attract attention 
to themselves.) Mr. Romanoff said the other day, 



268/SILENCE 



"Life is the sum total of all the little things that 
happen." Mr. Nearing smiled. 

Tucker Madawick is seventeen years old. He 
is Lois Long's son by her first husband. It was 
dinnertime. He came home from his job in the 
Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern and said to 
his mother, "Well, dear, I won't be seeing you for 
a couple of days." Lois Long said, "What's up?" 
Tucker said, "Tomorrow night after work, I'm 
driving to Albany with Danny Sherwood for a cup 
of coffee, and I'll be back for work the following 
day." Lois Long said, "For heaven's sake, you can 
have a cup of coffee here at home." Tucker Mada- 
wick replied, "Don't be a square. Read Kerouac." 

Merce Cunningham's parents were going to 
Seattle to see their other son, Jack. Mrs. Cunning- 
ham was driving. Mr. Cunningham said, "Don't 
you think you should go a little slower? You'll get 
caught." He gave this warning several times. 
Finally, on the outskirts of Seattle, they were 
stopped by a policeman. He asked to see Mrs. 
Cunningham's license. She rummaged around in 
her bag and said, "I just don't seem to be able to 
find it." He then asked to see the registration. She 
looked for it but unsuccessfully. The officer then 
said, "Well, what are we going to do with you?" 
Mrs. Cunningham started the engine. Before she 
drove off, she said, "I just don't have any more 
time to waste talking with you. Good-by." 

I went to hear Krishnamurti speak. He was 
lecturing on how to hear a lecture. He said, "You 
must pay full attention to what is being said and 
you can't do that if you take notes." The lady on 
my right was taking notes. The man on her right 
nudged her and said, "Don't you hear what he's 
saying? You're not supposed to take notes." She 
then read what she had written and said, "That's 
right. I have it written down right here in my 
notes." 



Virgil Thomson and Maurice Grosser were 
driving across the United States. When they came 
to Kansas, Virgil Thomson said, "Drive as fast as 
possible, in no case stop. Keep on going until we 
get out of it." Maurice Grosser got hungry and 
insisted on stopping for lunch. Seeing something 
at the end of the counter, he asked what it was, 
and the waitress replied, "Peanut butter pie." 
Virgil Thomson said, "You see what I mean?" 

One of Mies van der Rohe's pupils, a girl, 
came to him and said, "I have difficulty studying 
with you because you don't leave any room for 
self-expression." He asked her whether she had 
a pen with her. She did. He said, "Sign your 
name." She did. He said, "That's what I call 
self-expression." 

Just before I moved to the country, I called 
up the Museum of Natural History and asked a 
man there what poisonous snakes were to be 
found in Rockland County. Unhesitatingly he re- 
plied, "The copperhead and the rattlesnake." 
Going through the woods, I never see either (now 
and then a blacksnake or some other harmless 
reptile down near the stream or even up in the 
hills). The children across the road warned me 
that in our woods snakes hang from the trees. A 
man who works for the Interstate Park and who 
fives just north of us on Gate Hill told me he'd 
never seen any poisonous snakes on our land. 

On a mushroom walk near Mianus Gorge in 
Connecticut we came across thirty copperheads 
basking in the sun. Mr. Fleming put one in a 
paper bag and carried it home attached to his 
belt. He is, of course, a specialist with snakes, 
works for the Bronx Zoo, and makes hunting ex- 
peditions in South America. However, he told me 
once of another snake specialist who worked for 
the Park his whole life without ever having any 
trouble, and then, after getting his pension, went 



INDETERMINACY/269 



out tramping in the woods, was bitten by a copper- 
head, didn't take the bite seriously, and died of it. 

Among those thirty copperheads at Mianus 
Gorge I noticed three different colorations, so 
that I have lost faith in the pictures in the books 
as far as snake identification goes. What you have 
to do, it seems, is notice whether or not there is a 
pitlike indentation in each of the snake's cheeks, 
between the eye and the nostril, in order to be 
certain whether it's poisonous or not. This is, of 
course, difficult unless one is already dangerously 
close. 

Over in New Jersey on Bare Fort Mountain 
and once up at Sam's Point we ran into rattle- 
snakes. They were larger and more noble in action 
and appearance than the copperheads. There was 
only one on each occasion, and each went through 
the business of coifing, rattiing, and spitting. 
Neither struck. 

My new room is one step up from my old 
kitchen. One fall evening before the gap between 
the two rooms was closed up, I was shaving at the 
sink and happened to notice what seemed to be a 
copperhead making its way into the house five 
feet away from where I was standing. Never hav- 
ing killed a snake and feeling the urgency of that's 
being done, I called, "Paul! A copperhead's in the 
house!" Paul Williams came running over from his 
house and killed the snake with a bread board. 
After he left, the snake was still writhing. I cut 
off its head with a carving knife. With a pair of 
tongs, I picked up both parts and flushed them 
down the toilet. 

When I told Daniel DeWees what had hap- 
pened, he said, "That's what I thought. When I 
was working in the dark under the house the 
other day putting in the insulation, I had the feel- 
ing there was a snake there near me." I said, 
"Was it just a feeling? Did you imagine it? Or 
was there something made you certain?" He said, 
"Well, I thought I heard some hissing." 



In 1949 Merce Cunningham and I went to 
Europe on a Dutch boat. As we were approach- 
ing Rotterdam, the fog became so thick that land- 
ing was delayed. To expedite matters, the cus- 
toms officials came aboard the boat. Passengers 
formed into lines and one by one were questioned. 
Merce Cunningham was in one line, I was in an- 
other. I smoke a great deal, whereas he doesn't 
smoke at all. However, he was taking five cartons 
of cigarettes into Europe for me and I had that 
number myself. We were both traveling through 
Holland to Belgium and then France, and the 
customs regulations of all those countries varied 
with regard to cigarettes. For instance, you could 
at that time take five cartons per person into 
France but only two per person into Holland. 
When I got to my customs officer, all of this was 
clear to both of us. Out of the goodness of his 
heart, he was reluctant to deprive me of my three 
extra cartons or to charge duty on them, but he 
found it difficult to find an excuse for letting 
me off. Finally he said, "Are you going to go out 
of Holland backwards?" I said, "Yes." He was 
overjoyed. Then he said, "You can keep all the 
cigarettes. Have a good trip." I left the line and 
noticed that Merce Cunningham had just reached 
his customs officer and was having some trouble 
about the extra cartons. So I went over and told 
the official that Merce Cunningham was going to 
go out of Holland backwards. He was delighted. 
"Oh," he said, "in that case there's no problem 
at all." 

One day when I was studying with Schoen- 
berg, he pointed out the eraser on his pencil and 
said, "This end is more important than the other." 
After twenty years I learned to write direcdy in 
ink. Recendy, when David Tudor returned from 
Europe, he brought me a German pencil of mod- 
ern make. It can carry any size of lead. Pressure 
on a shaft at the end of the holder frees the lead 
so that it can be retracted or extended or removed 



270/SILENCE 



and another put in its place. A sharpener came 
with the pencil. This sharpener offers not one but 
several possibilities. That is, one may choose the 
kind of point he wishes. There is no eraser. 

During my last year in high school, I found 
out about the Liberal Catholic Church. It was in 
a beautiful spot in the Hollywood hills. The cere- 
mony was an anthology of the most theatrical bits 
and pieces found in the principal rituals, Occi- 
dental and Oriental. There were clouds of incense, 
candles galore, processions in and around the 
church. I was fascinated, and though I had been 
raised in the Methodist Episcopal Church and 
had had thoughts of going into the ministry, I 
decided to join the Liberal Catholics. Mother and 
Dad objected strenuously. Ultimately, when I told 
them of my intention to become an acolyte active 
in the Mass, they said, "Well, make up your mind. 
It's us or the church." Thinking along the lines of 
"Leave your father and mother and follow Me," 
I went to the priest, told him what had hap- 
pened, and said I'd decided in favor of the Lib- 
eral Catholics. He said, "Don't be a fool. Go home. 
There are many religions. You have only one 
mother and father." 

Schoenberg always complained that his Amer- 
ican pupils didn't do enough work. There was one 
girl in the class in particular who, it is true, did 
almost no work at all. He asked her one day why 
she didn't accomplish more. She said, "I don't 
have any time." He said, "How many hours are 
there in the day?" She said, "Twenty-four." He 
said, "Nonsense: there are as many hours in a day 
as you put into it." 

A crowded bus on the point of leaving Man- 
chester for Stockport was found by its conductress 
to have one too many standees. She therefore 
asked, "Who was the last person to get on the 
bus?" No one said a word. Declaring that the bus 



would not leave until the extra passenger was put 
off, she went and fetched the driver, who also 
asked, "All right, who was the last person to get 
on the bus?" Again there was a public silence. So 
the two went to find an inspector. He asked, 
"Who was the last person to get on the bus?" No 
one spoke. He then announced that he would 
fetch a policeman. While the conductress, driver, 
and inspector were away looking for a policeman, 
a litde man came up to the bus stop and asked, 
"Is this the bus to Stockport?" Hearing that it 
was, he got on. A few minutes later the three re- 
turned accompanied by a policeman. He asked, 
"What seems to be the trouble? Who was the 
last person to get on the bus?" The little man 
said, "I was." The policeman said, "All right, get 
off." All the people on the bus burst into laughter. 
The conductress, thinking they were laughing at 
her, burst into tears and said she refused to make 
the trip to Stockport. The inspector then arranged 
for another conductress to take over. She, seeing 
the little man standing at the bus stop, said, 
"What are you doing there?" He said, "I'm wait- 
ing to go to Stockport." She said, "Well, this is 
the bus to Stockport. Are you getting on or not?" 

Alex and Gretchen Corazzo gave a great deal 
of thought to whether or not they would attend 
the funeral of a close friend. At the last minute 
they decided they would go. Hurriedly they 
dressed, rushed out of the house, arrived late; the 
services had begun. They took seats at the back of 
the chapel. When the invitation came to view the 
body, they again deliberated, finally deciding to 
do so. Coming to the casket, they discovered they 
were at the wrong funeral. 

Xenia told me once that when she was a child 
in Alaska, she and her friends had a club and 
there was only one rule: No silliness. 

Xenia never wanted a party to end. Once, in 
Seattle, when the party we were at was folding, 



INDETERMINACY/271 



she invited those who were still awake, some of 
whom we'd only met that evening, to come over 
to our house. Thus it was that about 3:00 A.M. 
an Irish tenor was singing loudly in our living 
room. Morris Graves, who had a suite down the 
hall, entered ours without knocking, wearing an old- 
fashioned nightshirt and carrying an elaborately 
made wooden birdcage, the bottom of which had 
been removed. Making straight for the tenor, 
Graves placed the birdcage over his head, said 
nothing, and left the room. The effect was that of 
snuffing out a candle. Shortiy, Xenia and I were 
alone. 

I enrolled in a class in mushroom identifica- 
tion. The teacher was a Ph.D. and the editor of a 
publication on mycology. One day he picked up a 
mushroom, gave a good deal of information about 
it, mainly historical, and finally named the plant 
as Pluteus cervinus, edible. I was certain that that 
plant was not Pluteus cervinus. Due to the attach- 
ment of its gills to the stem, it seemed to me to be 
an Entoloma, and therefore possibly seriously poi- 
sonous. I thought: What shall I do? Point out the 
teacher's error? Or, following school etiquette, 
saying nothing, let other members of the class pos- 
sibly poison themselves? I decided to speak. I said, 
"I doubt whether that mushroom is Pluteus cer- 
vinus. I think it's an Entoloma." The teacher said, 
"Well, we'll key it out." This was done, and it 
turned out I was right. The plant was Entoloma 
grayanum, a poisonous mushroom. The teacher 
came over to me and said, "If you know so much 
about mushrooms, why do you take this class?" I 
said, "I take this class because there's so much 
about mushrooms I don't know." Then I said, "By 
the way, how is it that you didn't recognize that 
plant?" He said, "Well, I specialize in the jelly 
fungi; I just give the fleshy fungi a whirl." 

Merce Cunningham's father delights in gar- 
dening. Each year he has had to move the shrubs 



back from the driveway to protect them from 
being run over when Mrs. Cunningham backs out. 
One day Mrs. Cunningham in backing out knocked 
down but did not hurt an elderly gentieman who 
had been taking a stroll. Getting out of her car 
and seeing him lying on the sidewalk, Mrs. Cun- 
ningham said, "What are you doing there?" 

Generally speaking, suicide is considered a 
sin. So all the disciples were very interested to 
hear what Ramakrishna would say about the fact 
that a four-year-old child had just then committed 
suicide. Ramakrishna said that the child had not 
sinned, he had simply corrected an error; he had 
been born by mistake. 

One day while I was composing, the tele- 
phone rang. A lady's voice said, "Is this John 
Cage, the percussion composer?" I said, "Yes." 
She said, "This is the J. Walter Thompson Com- 
pany." I didn't know what that was, but she ex- 
plained that their business was advertising. She 
said, "Hold on. One of our directors wants to 
speak to you." During a pause my mind went 
back to my composition. Then suddenly a man's 
voice said, "Mr. Cage, are you willing to pros- 
titute your art?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, 
bring us some samples Friday at two." I did. 
After hearing a few recordings, one of the direc- 
tors said to me, "Wait a minute." Then seven 
directors formed what looked like a football hud- 
dle. From this one of them finally emerged, came 
over to me, and said, "You're too good for us. 
We're going to save you for Robinson Crusoe." 

In the poetry contest in China by which the 
Sixth Patriarch of Zen Buddhism was chosen, 
there were two poems. One said: "The mind is 
like a mirror. It collects dust. The problem is to 
remove the dust." The other and winning poem 
was actually a reply to the first. It said, "Where 
is the mirror and where is the dust?" 



272/SILENCE 



Some centuries later in a Japanese monastery, 
there was a monk who was always taking baths. 
A younger monk came up to him and said, "Why, 
if there is no dust, are you always taking baths?" 
The older monk replied, "Just a dip. No why." 

While we were sitting on top of Slide Moun- 
tain looking out towards Cornell and Wittenberg 
and the Ashokan Reservoir beyond, Guy Nearing 
said he had known two women who were bitten 
by copperheads. "They were just the same after 
as before," he said, "except they were a little 
more cranky." 

On Christmas Day, Mother said, "I've lis- 
tened to your record several times. After hearing 
all those stories about your childhood, I keep ask- 
ing myself, 'Where was it that I failed?' " 

One spring morning I knocked on Sonya 
Sekula's door. She lived across the hall. Presendy 
the door was opened just a crack and she said 
quickly, "I know you're very busy: I won't take a 
minute of your time." 

When the depression began, I was in Europe. 
After a while I came back and lived with my 
family in the Pacific Palisades. I had read some- 
where that Richard Buhlig, the pianist, had years 
before in Berlin given the first performance of 
Schoenberg's Opus 11. I thought to myself: He 
probably fives right here in Los Angeles. So I 
looked in the phone book and, sure enough, there 
was his name. I called him up and said, "I'd like 
to hear you play the Schoenberg pieces." He 
said he wasn't contemplating giving a recital. I said, 
"Well, surely, you play at home. Couldn't I come 
over one day and hear the Opus 11?" He said, 
"Certainly not." He hung up. 

About a year later, the family had to give up 
the house in the Palisades. Mother and Dad went 
to an apartment in Los Angeles. I found an auto 



court in Santa Monica where, in exchange for 
doing the gardening, I got an apartment to five in 
and a large room back of the court over the 
garages, which I used as a lecture hall. I was 
nineteen years old and enthusiastic about modern 
music and painting. I went from house to house 
in Santa Monica explaining this to the housewives. 
I offered ten lectures for $2.50. I said, "I will 
learn each week something about the subject that 
I will then lecture on." 

Well, the week came for my lecture on Schoen- 
berg. Except for a minuet, Opus 25, his music 
was too difficult for me to play. No recordings 
were then available. I thought of Richard Buhlig. 
I decided not to telephone him but to go direcdy 
to his house and visit him. I hitchhiked into Los 
Angeles, arriving at his house at noon. He wasn't 
home. I took a pepper bough off a tree and, pulling 
off the leaves one by one, recited, "He'll come 
home; he won't; he'll come home . . ." It always 
turned out He'll come home. He did. At midnight. 
I explained I'd been waiting to see him for twelve 
hours. He invited me into the house. When I 
asked him to illustrate my lecture on Schoenberg, 
he said, "Certainly not." However, he said he'd 
like to see some of my compositions, and we made 
an appointment for the following week. 

Somehow I got through the lecture, and the 
day came to show my work to Buhlig. Again I 
hitchhiked into L.A., arriving somewhat ahead of 
time. I rang the doorbell. Buhlig opened it and 
said, "You're half an hour early. Come back at the 
proper time." I had library books with me and 
decided to kill two birds with one stone. So I went 
to the library to return the books, found some new 
ones, and then came back to Buhfig's house and 
again rang the doorbell. He was furious when he 
opened the door. He said, "Now you're half an 
hour late." He took me into the house and lec- 
tured me for two hours on the importance of time, 
especially for one who proposed devoting his life 
to the art of music. 



INDETERMINACY/273 



In 1954 an issue of the United States Lines Paris Review devoted to humor was 
being prepared. I was invited to write on the subject of music. I contributed 
the following article. 



MUSIC LOVERS' FIELD COMPANION 



I have come to the conclusion that much can be learned about music by 
devoting oneself to the mushroom. For this purpose I have recently moved 
to the country. Much of my time is spent poring over "field companions" 
on fungi. These I obtain at half price in second-hand bookshops, which 
latter are in some rare cases next door to shops selling dog-eared sheets of 
music, such an occurrence being greeted by me as irrefutable evidence that 
I am on the right track. 

The winter for mushrooms, as for music, is a most sorry season. Only 
in caves and houses where matters of temperature and humidity, and in 
concert halls where matters of trusteeship and box office are under constant 
surveillance, do the vulgar and accepted forms thrive. American commer- 
cialism has brought about a grand deterioration of the Psalliota campestris, 
affecting through exports even the European market. As a demanding 
gourmet sees but does not purchase the marketed mushroom, so a lively 
musician reads from time to time the announcements of concerts and stays 
quietly at home. If, energetically, Collybia velutipes should fruit in Janu- 
ary, it is a rare event, and happening on it while stalking in a forest is almost 
beyond one's dearest expectations, just as it is exciting in New York to note 
that the number of people attending a winter concert requiring the use of 
one's faculties is on the upswing ( 1954: 129 out of 12,000,000; 1955: 136 out 
of 12,000,000). 

In the summer, matters are different. Some three thousand different 



274/SILENCE 



mushrooms are thriving in abundance, and right and left there are Festivals 
of Contemporary Music. It is to be regretted, however, that the consolida- 
tion of the acquisitions of Schoenberg and Stravinsky, currently in vogue, 
has not produced a single new mushroom. Mycologists are aware that in 
the present fungous abundance, such as it is, the dangerous Amanitas play 
an extraordinarily large part. Should not program chairmen, and music- 
lovers in general, come the warm months, display some prudence? 

I was delighted last fall (for the effects of summer linger on, viz. 
Donaueschingen, C. D. M. I., etc. ) not only to revisit in Paris my friend the 
composer Pierre Boulez, rue Beautreillis, but also to attend the Exposition 
du Champignon, rue de Buffon. A week later in Cologne, from my vantage 
point in a glass-encased control booth, I noticed an audience dozing off, 
throwing, as it were, caution to the winds, though present at a loud-speaker- 
emitted program of Elektronische Musik. I could not help recalling the 
riveted attention accorded another loud-speaker, rue de Buffon, which de- 
livered on the hour a lecture describing mortally poisonous mushrooms and 
means for their identification. 

But enough of the contemporary musical scene; it is well known. More 
important is to determine what are the problems confronting the contem- 
porary mushroom. To begin with, I propose that it should be determined 
which sounds further the growth of which mushrooms; whether these latter, 
indeed, make sounds of their own; whether the gills of certain mushrooms 
are employed by appropriately small-winged insects for the production of 
pizzicati and the tubes of the Boleti by minute burrowing ones as wind 
instruments; whether the spores, which in size and shape are extraordi- 
narily various, and in number countless, do not on dropping to the earth 
produce gamelan-like sonorities; and finally, whether all this enterprising 
activity which I suspect delicately exists, could not, through technological 
means, be brought, amplified and magnified, into our theatres with the net 
result of making our entertainments more interesting. 

What a boon it would be for the recording industry (now part of 
America's sixth largest) if it could be shown that the performance, while at 
table, of an LP of Beethoven's Quartet Opus Such-and-Such so alters the 
chemical nature of Amanita muscaria as to render it both digestible and 
delicious! 

Lest I be found frivolous and light-headed and, worse, an "impurist" 

MUSIC LOVERS' FIELD COMPANION/275 



for having brought about the marriage of the agaric with Euterpe, observe 
that composers are continually mixing up music with something else. 
Karlheinz Stockhausen is clearly interested in music and juggling, con- 
structing as he does "global structures," which can be of service only when 
tossed in the air; while my friend Pierre Boulez, as he revealed in a recent 
article (Nouvelle Revue Frangaise, November 1954), is interested in music 
and parentheses and italics] This combination of interests seems to me ex- 
cessive in number. I prefer my own choice of the mushroom. Furthermore 
it is avant-garde. 

I have spent many pleasant hours in the woods conducting perform- 
ances of my silent piece, transcriptions, that is, for an audience of myself, 
since they were much longer than the popular length which I have had 
published. At one performance, I passed the first movement by attempting 
the identification of a mushroom which remained successfully unidentified. 
The second movement was extremely dramatic, beginning with the sounds 
of a buck and a doe leaping up to within ten feet of my rocky podium. The 
expressivity of this movement was not only dramatic but unusually sad 
from my point of view, for the animals were frightened simply because I 
was a human being. However, they left hesitatingly and fittingly within the 
structure of the work. The third movement was a return to the theme of the 
first, but with all those profound, so-well-known alterations of world feeling 
associated by German tradition with the A-B-A. 

In the space that remains, I would like to emphasize that I am not 
interested in the relationships between sounds and mushrooms any more 
than I am in those between sounds and other sounds. These would involve 
an introduction of logic that is not only out of place in the world, but time- 
consuming. We exist in a situation demanding greater earnestness, as I can 
testify, since recently I was hospitalized after having cooked and eaten 
experimentally some Spathyema foetida, commonly known as skunk cab- 
bage. My blood pressure went down to fifty, stomach was pumped, etc. It 
behooves us therefore to see each thing directly as it is, be it the sound of a 
tin whistle or the elegant Lepiota procera. 



276/SILENCE 



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