Saturday, August 8, 2009
At the very beginning of a classical concert you can watch the members of the orchestra step onto the stage and start tuning their instruments just before the conductor arrives. You'll hear a cacaphony of sounds that appears to be some kind of invisible composition, it has an aura of its own.
As a child attending such a concert for the very first time I thought it was already part of the concert. And even today I most often consider that part of the concert as more intriguing than the rest of the evening.
Friday, August 7, 2009
The 95-year-old novelist and screenwriter Budd Schulberg has died of natural causes in his Long Island, New York home. He's best known for his script for On the Waterfront, but also for having snitched before the House of Un-American Activities Committee. Lesser known is the fact that he arrested Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl.
There's an eulogy here.
David Tudor and I took a taxi down town. He
was going to Macy’s; I was going on to West
Broadway and Prince where I get my hair cut.
After David Tudor got out, I began
talking with the driver about the weather.
The relative merits of the Old Farmers’ Almanac
and the newspapers came up. The driver said
they were developing rockets that would raise the
weather man’s predictions from 50 to 55 per cent
accuracy. I said I thought the Almanac
starting from a consideration of planets and
their movements, rather than from winds and
theirs, got a better start since the
X-quantities involved were not so physically close
to the results being predicted. The
driver said he’d had an operation some years
before and that while his flesh was dead and
numb, before the wound healed,
he was able to predict weather changes by
the pain he felt in the scar, that
when the flesh lost its numbness and was,
so to speak, back to normal,
he could no longer know in advance
anything about changes in weather.
- John Cage
Thursday, August 6, 2009
I've done quite a many different jobs over the years, but the most frequent job was giving private lessons to help kids improve their grades at school. I had been doing this from my early teens on.
One of the many pupils I had was a friend's cousin. She actually wasn't that bad at school, but she was madly ambitious and wanted to have better grades. Although I needed the money I would have rather done without this particular job, because she and her mother, too, were very domineering and asked a lot from me, although they basically stayed friendly. Although I got my hourly pay for visiting and giving lessons, the girl would call up at home and then ask me questions for hours on end. Often I found myself dictating her complete print-ready essays for all likely topics that could come up with a next day's test. I never got paid for those hours.
One day I arrived at their house for the next lesson, I had the girl arguing with her mother and she came into the office with her eyes all red and she was sniffing. I didn't ask her what it was all about, but my friend later told me that their was a big family argument with the girl. She was going to have her 18th birthday soon, and so it was decided as a special meal that they would serve her favourite rabbit!
This fight went on for 2-3 weeks, but the girl lost: as a special gift for her coming of age she was forced to eat her own favourite rabbit...
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?” ¶
Some centuries later in a Japanese
monastery, there was a
monk who was always taking
A younger monk came up to
him and said, “Why,
if there is no dust,
are you always taking
older monk replied, “Just
a dip. No why.”
- John Cage
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Overlooking the gallows behind the jail a group of reporters from most of the city's newspapers are passing the time with poker and pungent wisecracks about the news of the day and soon they'll witness the hanging of a convicted murderer.
This is an early classic adaptation of the famous Ben Hecht/Charles MacArthur play, it's a bit dusty by now, but still offers a lot of fun.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Fog delays a group of travelers headed for New York who wait at the V.I.P. lounge of London Airport, each at a moment of crisis in his or her life.
Who would have known that the rich and famous have the same problems like us mortals? There are some good scenes and some splendid acting, but if you add it all up, this is 2 hours of talking heads.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Up to my mid 20s I used to be an extremely shy person. I was afraid of embarrassing myself in any situation and avoided public displays of myself whenever possible.
Once I was invited to the birthday party of one of our film club members. She was a very nice and friendly person, she was a bit of a hippie type of girl. The party was to be held in the apartment of a couple who were close friends to her - and who were members of one of the richest families in town. So, the apartment was situated in a huge fin-de-siecle house and had the size of a house itself. There were about 50-60 guests present who were scattered in all the rooms, and 90% of them were completely unknown to me.
On arrival each guest had to draw a number and was told that the number had relevance for later in the party. I thought that was a bit mysterious, but I took mine. By the time the majority of the those invited had arrived there was an announcement. There was some kind of raffle concerning our numbers, each person was assigned to a certain task. My assignment turned out to be that I was to impersonate Marilyn Monroe!
You can imagine my panic! All through the evening there were interruptions, and each time someone had to fulfill their assigned task. They were all not quite exciting, some did better than others. I found out my turn would be at about midnight, and I tried everything to get myself out of this impossible duty. However, my hosts found it quite amusing that I was so nervous, I shouldn't take it seriously and it'll all turn out fine.
I was determined not to do the performance. I had the choice of either making a fool of myself or being a bad sport. I picked the latter option, and shortly before it was my turn I sneaked out and left the party.
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 somewhere 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 lives 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. ¶ Then, 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 live 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 Schoenberg.
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 directly
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
- John Cage
One spring morning
She lived across
the door was opened
just a crack
she said quickly,
“I know you’re very
I won’t take a
minute of your time.”
- John Cage