Night Music: John Cage, “Water Walk”

Screenshot 2014-07-19 23.31.03I was at a museum the other day that was showing the work of Amy Silliman. She makes abstract paintings with some figurative elements, or maybe it’s the other way around. She also has some fun with words.

I liked her earlier more figurative and allegorical paintings more than the later, more abstract and cagey paintings she’s been doing in recent years. Though one series, 70 some odd rooms–painted from memory–in which she remembered feeling shame, resonated conceptually.

As a sidebar, Amy Silliman and someone else curated their own show of things they thought should be in the museum. This is an interesting idea, and I think helped me get a handle on what Sillman was about. But what I really liked about it was a video of John Cage, the experimental composer, appearing on the ancient TV show, “I’ve Got A Secret.”

Fortunately, the clip is on YouTube, so I can share it. The key thing to note is that this was a TV show broadcast in 1960. Dwight Eisenhower was still the president. Jim Crow laws still ruled the south. The US only had a few hundred advisors in Vietnam. The Beatniks were kind of old hat at this point. And John Cage was still a young man, resembling maybe the young David Lynch, with the same knowing smile and the same ability to present the outlandish with all seriousness.

This clip is not rock. Cage is hardly a remnant. But there is so much going on here (Cage has to rewrite the piece because the stage craft unions are unable to figure out how he can turn on the five radios in the piece, as the score dictates.) that I have to share.

I’m not sure what I think about the work. I kind of agree with the Herald Tribune review that’s quoted in the piece to show that Cage is taken seriously by music critics. He is no joke. But I love that this exists, plus the cigarettes, and am glad Amy Sillman introduced me to it.

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