Friday, May 27, 2011

Begin again

I've been reading Kenneth Silverman's biography of John Cage, Begin Again over the last few weeks.
Having never really engaged with Cage as a human being before, it's been really interesting and I'm left with a couple of instant reactions:
1. I wanted to listen to more and more of his music as I read about the conditions of its composition
2. I was surprised at the extent to which he seemed to value loyalty above professional integrity and found it difficult to separate friendships from professional associations. This, to me, seems to run at variance to the philosophies and aesthetics of life that texts such as his Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) seems to espouse.

This second observation set me to thinking if I would be able to carry on being close friends with someone who criticised my music (and deeper than that, my whole aesthetic) in print. Would I be able to separate personal from professional? I just don't know. I find it personal enough when I read feedback from students on my classes, and my music is so much more personal to me.

Cage comes across, in this biography, as being quite lonely towards the end of his life, and I have to say that I was moved by the account of his death. I certainly don't think I could live like him, and I'm not sure I would have been friends with him if I had met him, but I would like to work on being as positive as him in terms of his work ethic. He may have despaired of the world at times, and of his own personal life, but he retained a belief that his work could actually help things along.

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