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Buddhadharma : Fall 2012
46 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 2 Into the Music Cage has just given 4'33" its public airing. He has finally been able to find a form for the silence he’s been nurturing for decades. In that null zone, that place of quiet and surcease, that zero of transformation, there is a pivot. Cage has reached the peak of the mountain. Up here the view is glorious and inhospitable. His hair is tumbled and frosted by a stiff wind. He balances precari- ously on the rocky summit. He is a human projectile in the domain of blue. Below him lies the ordinary world’s woven carpet of trees, roads, kitchens, beds. All around him, up here, an element bubbles through his bloodstream yet alienates his body. Where he stands, sky is everywhere; there is nowhere that isn’t touched by it. The view is vast and empty. He can’t grasp it. And he can’t live here. Now what? A Zen teacher will tell you: The next step always leads back down, into the music. [Q:] The basic message of Silence seems to be that everything is permitted. [Cage:] Everything is permitted if zero is taken as the basis. That’s the part that isn’t often understood. If you’re nonintentional, then everything is permitted. If you’re intentional, for instance if you want to murder someone, then it’s not per- mitted. The same thing can be true musically. Not Enough of Nothing It’s 1954, two years after the debut of 4'33". Cage and Tudor are scheduled to per- form at the Donaueschingen music festival in Germany that September. In October, Cage will go on to speak at the Composers’ Concourse in London. He expects to have time to prepare the London talk while he and Tudor sail to Europe. But the ship collides with another vessel and returns to port, and Cage and Tudor are forced to fly to Amsterdam. Cage loses his anticipated free time to write. As he relates in his book Silence, he feverishly pieced together the speech in trains and hotel lobbies and restaurants during his European tour. The London talk, “45' for a Speaker,” uses chance operations to wedge together fragments of earlier texts and new realizations. Huang Po’s instructions to let go of thoughts interpenetrate with comments on chance and the I Ching, and occasional phrases from “Lecture on Nothing” and “Lecture on Something.” This talk is something of a chopped salad, so it’s intriguing that Suzuki’s teach- ings on zero are flavoring Cage’s thinking. In “45' for a Speaker,” Cage has noticed the emptiness of the categories and rules advocated by Schoenberg and the propo- nents of twelve-tone music. However there is a story I have found very help- ful. What’s so interesting about technique anyway? What if there are twelve tones in a row? What row? This seeing of cause and effect is not emphasized but instead one makes an identification with what is here and now. He then spoke of two qualities. Unimpededness and Inter- penetration.