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Buddhadharma : Fall 2012
40 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 2 Outside, the soft gray sky is sultry and threatening rain. Peeking at the program, the audience can see Cage’s music listed twice. The first piece of the evening is identi- fied simply by the date. Later titled Water Music—a first cousin of Water Walk—it’s scored for such noisemakers as a duck call, three whistles, a deck of cards, water gurgling from containers, a radio, and a stopwatch. (Cage has already presented this piece at the New School for Social Research in May and at Black Mountain College on August 12.) Just before Henry Cowell’s The Banshee, the program lists a second work by Cage. To play it, Tudor sits at the piano, sets out a stopwatch, carefully closes the keyboard lid, studies the score, and doesn’t move for thirty seconds. He raises the lid and looks at the stopwatch. He carefully closes the lid, studies the score, and doesn’t move for two minutes and twenty-three seconds, as wind gusts through the wide-open doors at the rear of the hall and rain titters on the roof. He raises the lid and looks at the stopwatch. He carefully closes the lid, studies the score, and doesn’t move for one minute and forty seconds, while people mutter and rustle in their seats. Then he stands up and walks off stage. Cage dryly observes the interesting sounds people make as they walk out of the hall. That’s it. Not much, right? Then the aftermath begins. And it has proved momentous. The Wrath of the Scorned The furor that arose around 4'33" inflamed the town for weeks afterward. The anger was so great, Cage observed, that he lost friends. “They missed the point,” he said. “There is no such thing as silence.” Eleven days later, on October 9, a letter scorched the pages of a now-defunct local newspaper. The writer chose to be anonymous, and was identified only as “an inter- nationally known musician, composer, and conductor.” The newspaper clipping betrays the fury of a music lover scorned. We had been told that Cage’s show had been quite impressive in New York last winter and we were all looking forward to a stimulating evening of musical experi- mentation. Precedents were to be broken. The Maverick was to be alive with music on a weekday evening, the sacred hall was at last going to ring with some- thing new. We anticipated an honest, though controversial musical adventure. What did we get? A poorly timed comedy show with worn-out musical gags repeated over and over again, boredom extended ad infinitum, yea, ad nauseam. The duck calls and water pitchers were bad enough, but the worst offender, 4'33", brought the letter writer to stuttering outrage. This form of phony musical Dadaism built up by sensational publicity, frightens audiences away from the real music of our times. The arrogance of its nihilistic sophistries might be just amusing to most people. But there is a war of nerves Film stills of David Tudor performing 4'33"from: I Have Nothing to Say and I'm Saying It, 1990, directed by Allan Miller REPRODUCEDWITHPERMISSIONOFVIVIANPERLIS