information reprinted from another of my web sites
I have been a musician for most of my life. Throughout my life, I have heard references to many famous musicians, some of whom have had a great deal of effect on my life, both as a musician and as a human being. One of the most profound effects my life has experienced is that which originated with the great artist, musician and composer, John Cage.
He was first introduced to me as a composer of “unusual” music. I have always been interested in the out-of-the-ordinary, and when I encountered a piece of music for the Prepared Piano, a John Cage invention, I knew I had found a kindered spirit. His unorthodox use of chance, creating music by rolling dice or following mathematical formulae, or even determining notes in a score by using star charts as an indicator inspired my own, interesting (many would say bizarre) unorthodox experiments. John Cage also had the honor of being able to study with the great serial composer Arnold Schönberg, who is another of my favourite composers, especially for his oratorio Pierrot Lunaire. One of my favourite characteristics of Pierrot Lunaire, outside of the music itself, of course, is the fact that when I was in high school, and I played it on my stereo, it would give my mother a headache. John Cage, himself, gave quite a bit of insight into his unorthodox way of thinking, and, by extension, his unorthodox music and artwork in his “Autobiographical Statement”, which first appeared in print in the Southwest Review in 1991.
Later in my life, I attended the Cornish School, where John Cage worked, and performed in the tiny performance hall which had been the original reason he invented the prepared piano, and it felt to me like I was following in the steps of someone I respected very much. At that time, I was also composing a lot of music using various numeric and geometric techniques. Somewhat later, during my first year at Fairhaven College, I performed Cage’s famous piano piece called 4’33” – which is, basically, four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence, in three movements which are delineated by the performer opening and closing the cover of the piano keyboard. There is a web-based rendition of this famous piece of music, which is performed in one movement, sans piano. Oddly enough, my rendition of 4’33” was performed on an old, upright piano which, only moments before the start of my performance, I had managed to knock over on its back (I had to have about 6 other people help me lift it back upright again), and the keyboard had completely locked, so if I had had to play notes, I would not have been able to do so.
In 2001, I read of another performance of music by John Cage which I found to be particularly inspiring, which is a performance of an adaptation of Cage’s piece for piano called “As Slow As Possible”. In the small town of Halberstatd, Germany, in an old, abandoned church-turned-pig-farm-turned-performance-hall, an organ is being constructed for the performance of a piece called “Organ2 – ASLSP” (movement 5 of which can be heard here), which, when complete, will be the longest musical performance in human history, taking 639 years to finish. The performance started on 5 September, 2001, and for the first 17 months the only sound was silence, punctuated by the wheezing of the solar-powered organ bellows. The first three actual notes of the performance began on 3 February, 2003, another note was added in July of 2004 and another note was added in July of 2005. According to what I have read, an intermission is planned in 2319.
I have always had a lot of respect for people who make their living doing unconventional things. I have tried very hard to be one of those people, because it has become evident to me that the people doing unconventional things in their lives are among the only people in existence who are having even the slightest bit of fun that isn’t heavily influenced, and in most cases totally controlled by someone else. John Cage has always been a powerful influence in my life because of his ability to be unconventional and extremely successful at the same time.