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08 September 2012

1992 WBAI John Cage Memorial Tribute

Five days after the death of John Cage, on Aug. 17, 1992, the NY-based composer, writer, and lecturer Raphael Mostel produced and hosted a two-hour tribute broadcast on NY's radio station, WBAI-FM.  

As Mr. Mostel describes it, only a few of the many, many friends and associates of John Cage could be invited:  

In the WBAI studio with me were artist William Anastasi (at the time co-artistic advisor to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company), composer Earle Brown, Don Gillespie (who worked with Cage for decades at C.F. Peters, Cage’s publisher), R.I.P. Hayman (composer and a founder of EAR Magazine), Mark Swed (a music critic who is probably more knowledgeable about Cage than almost anyone else alive), and Margaret Leng Tan (a pianist who worked with Cage intensively, especially on annotating his works for prepared piano).  Speaking by telephone sequentially (WBAI only had a single line) were: Christian Wolff, Pauline Oliveros, and David Tudor. The engineer and in-line producer for WBAI was Peter Schmideg, who was the regular host of the station’s weekly program "Soundscapes: Explorations in Radio Sound & Music."

To read Mr. Mostel's essay and hear the broadcast in their entirety, click here.  One of the things that didn't make it into his essay is how David Tudor reacted in the broadcast.  He was obviously overcome with emotion, especially with mention of Cage's relationship to Morton Feldman.  As Mostel later reflected, Tudor may at the time have been under the influence of alcohol or medication, or both, but he (Mostel) was (understandably) loathe to curtail his poignant reverie.

New Music Box is a multimedia publication from the American Music Center, part of New Music USA, dedicated to the music of American composers and improvisers and their champions.  It offers in-depth profiles, articles, and discussions, as well as up-to-the-minute industry news and commentary, a direct portal to its Internet radio station, Counterstream, and access to an online library of more than 57,000 works by more than 6,000 composers.  It is currently featuring a total of five pieces reflecting on John Cage, each falling under the heading of Cage = 100.  In addition to Mostel's contribution, which is titled Walking Along Paths the Outcome of Which I Didn't Know..., are Kurt Gottschalk's Cage and Zen, Perspectives from Two Recent Books (Kay Larson and Rob Haskins), Isaac Schankler's Tudor and the Performance Practice of Concert for Piano and Orchestra, Kevin James' Provenance and Process--100 Waltzes for John Cage, and Petr Kotik's As Influential as Wagner, as Interpretable as Mozart.  

John Cage Obituary on KFPA Radio, August 12, 1992, Charles Amirkhanian is also available in streaming audio format as part of the Other Minds Audio Archive.  

Photo: John Cage (Frankfurt am Main, 1987) ©Anatol Kotte

Laura Kuhn