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08 July 2012

Gramophone's Top 10 Picks

The July issue of Gramophone Magazine focuses on the 2012 Proms, including a calendar of events that includes not one but two programs featuring works by John Cage: August 14 & 17.  The upcoming August issue (on newsstands Sept. 3, 2012) includes a nice piece by Philip Clark, inspired by his standing outside Cage's 18th St. apartment building in NYC and listening into the sounds that surrounded him. A web-only feature for this issue is James McCarthy's Top 10 John Cage recordings: "Ten Ways to Fall in Love with Cage."  Congratulations to Don Gillespie for grabbing the #9 spot with his video realization of Cage's 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs (1977) (Mode Records, The Complete John Cage Edition, Volume 40, Mode 204, 2008).

Laura Kuhn

03 July 2012

Letters from Auckland

Leandra Augustin, Alsana Rahaman, and Judit Mathew
One of the great joys of working at the John Cage Trust is hearing from people from all around the world who are newly engaging with the work of John Cage.  The latest?  A spirited communication from Marcellin College in Auckland, New Zealand -- specifically the students of Room 19, a class of 29 8th-graders, under the happy tutelage of Barry Moffatt.  In the photo just above, they're holding their original "rock drawings," which were created simulating Cage's techniques for his "Ryoanji" drawings with a grid and 15 rocks whose positions were determined by chance operations.  Unlike Cage, however, they added their own little twist: a single highlighted rock, also selected by chance.

In addition to their "rock drawings," the students listened to recordings of Cage's music and watched films about his life (sending special thanks to Brian Brandt/Mode Records).  They also wrote mesostic poems using the 50% rule on the string JOHNCAGE.  The poems came neatly bound in a little book, and without exception are incredibly beautiful.  Here are two, selected at random:

        junk fOod makes
         you tHirsty
           eveN though
          you Could
              eAt differently
         but, Go out
          and Enjoy mushrooms!
(Judit Mathews Leandra Augustin)

                                              Jumbled sentences that i
                                 struggle tO understand - i begin to
                                             tHink that his thoughts are
                                                                            somewhere iN neverland, trapped in his
                                                                                    own enClosure.  struggling to
                                                                                         escApe reality, to some, his
                                                                     poems are just a Gag.  but
                                                                                          othErs find them not too bad.
                                                                                                       (Trisha Villafania)

(Transcribing mesostic poetry into Blogger is an exercise in near futility.  I assure you theirs were letter perfect, if mine haven't fared so well!)
They also wrote me letters, all 29 of them, sharing a bit about themselves, their experiences with their projects, and finishing up with a few words about their overall impressions of John Cage:

"I enjoy reading through his history. One thing I know about him that he would never give up of what people say about him. I am really thankful that we were learning about him." (Trizhel Amon)

"I found that John Cage's art was interesting and kind of hard. I hope to learn more about Cage's beautiful and strange art." (Joseph Kalavi)

"I think that John Cage is an interesting guy because of how he looks at the world. I want to read more of his mesostic writings." (Ivan Evangelista)

"I think Cage was a very creative man. But what he called music: I found that quite weird. It sounded as if someone was screaming in my ear. The only music I liked of his was the prepared piano. It sounded very nice. I also enjoyed his mesostic poems and the way he painted." (Sharon Peterson)

"I find John Cage's work very interesting and I agree with him that all sounds in the world are music." (Isaac Rebello)

"I think that John Cage was an interesting man whose music is difficult to understand." (Nikko Eichler)

"If someone came up to me and asked me who John Cage was and what I thought of him, I would say that he was a poet and musician of sorts, some might say a chip off the old block. But I think he was a brand new block, different from anything else." (Benjamin Urquhart)

"The music sounded awful and it displeased my ears.  If I were a bit older I think I might have liked it." (Ivan Harris)

"We learned that John Cage was a determined man, and kept doing what he liked even though people rejected him." (Mary Aguilar)

"My personal opinion of John Cage is that to say he was a free spirit wasn't enough, he's a pioneer in the way he thought about art, and created a new medium of art.  I might not be the biggest fan of Cage, but I respect him as a person, and as a star."  (Aidan Samasoni-Tukuitonga)


Barry Moffatt, their teacher, is an equally interesting fellow.  Here he is outside Vesuvio's in San Francisco, a favorite travel destination.

Dr. Moffatt holds a PhD in philosophy, with additional degrees in science and art history.  When asked why, with so eminent qualifications, he chooses to teach young children, he points out that for a time Wittgenstein did as well.  He tells me he is both a poet (his poems described by others as "abstract and obscure") and a visual artist (his work in this arena "better received than his poems"). He is also an avid collector of Cage's works, both music and writings, and of secondary literature on Cage.

Hasley Stephens, Gadesvy Andrades, Joelle Moriah Reid, and Edgar Varona

Thank you one and all* for sharing your wonderful work.

*Mary Aguilar, Trizhel Amon, Gadesvy Andrades, Leandra Augustin, Van Joseph Belinario, Seadon D'Silva, Nikko Eichler, Cesar Estoconing, Elijah Etuali, Kim Louis (Ivan) Evangelista, Steven (Jan) Gamo, Jenney Guo, Ivan Marsich Harris, Harlem Ironside, Gabriel Johnson, Joseph Kalavi, Liam Koloamatangi, Judit Mathew, Sinafoni Mikaele, Brandon Peters, Sharon Peterson, Alsana Rahaman, Isaac Rebello, Joelle Moriah Reid, Aidan-Paulenele Samasoni-Tukuitonga, Hasley Stephens, Benjamin Urquhart, Edgar Varona, and Trisha Villafania.

Laura Kuhn