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"And that is like joining a biker gang; that is."

John Waters speaks brilliantly about contemporary art and morality.   NSFW language at the end.

"... most people have great contempt about contemporary art and I find that hilarious because I did a piece, it said "contemporary art hates you."  And it does hate them because you can’t see it.  You don’t know the magic trick; you haven’t learned the vocabulary, you haven’t learned the special way of seeing something that changes it.  And that is like joining a biker gang; that is."

My wife and I had a conversation about this statement, and she felt that is was a bit unfair.  She feels that while many people may feel that contemporary art is couched in a language they don't understand, most artists aren't looking to deliberately mock or confuse their audience.  Rather, it is often self-imposed barriers to the perception of contemporary art that gets in the way.

Continue reading ""And that is like joining a biker gang; that is."" »


John Cage Quote of the Day 3

"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, Edgar Varese, Ben Weber, and Alexi Haieff) answered questions put to them by twenty other composers.  My question to Varese concerned his views of the future of music.  His answer was that neither the past nor the future interested him; that his concern was with the present.

From History of Experimental Music in the United States, 1959


John Cage Quote of the Day 2

"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."

Excerpt from an address given at the MTNA convention in 1957.


John Cage Quote of the Day

Those of you who know me know that, for the time being, I am not earning my living as a conductor, thanks in part to California's woeful state budget.   I have strong, contradictory opinions about my situation - but not the state budget, which is simply fracked - and perhaps I'll express those later.  In the mean time I've decided to delve into the wonderfully contrarian mind of John Cage (the Terry Gilliam of American composers).  Cage was the ultimate (inside) outsider, and as I am now on the outside as well, I figure it is high time I tackle the esoteric tomes that have been waiting patiently in my library since being purchased at Half Priced Books, oh so many years ago.

So here it is, your John Cage Quote of the Day.

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 divisions 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.

From the Foreword to Silence; Lectures and Writings of John Cage


Puckett on Rouse and some excellent listening, too

Joel Puckett is a friend who happens to be a very gifted composer, who also writes and teaches about other people's music wonderfully.  Recently he was asked to write a guest piece for the Baltimore Sun about a recent Christopher Rouse work, and it perfectly captures that sense of discovery and delightful surprise one can have hearing new musical works for the first time.  The whole very perceptive article is here--best bit:

As we walked down 65th street, we were collectively inspired by Rouse's willingness to push his expression. It would be very easy for him to sit back and write the same piece over and over for the rest of his life. Not that any of us were surprised that he is still a growing and restless artist, it was just dazzling to come face to face with such powerful evidence.

And don't take my word for it that Joel is a terrific composer--here he is working with the U.S. Marine Band (one of the great concert ensembles in the world, truly), in a rehearsal of his piece It Perched for Vespers Nine: