Readings, Tuesday Jan 19

 A Few Ideas About Film and Music, John Cage

I love how Cage repeatedly emphasizes that successful music and art reflect an all-important and organic conception of rhythm in everyday life. A recurring theme of these readings and of my own ideas about composition and art seems to be that effective art helps us to understand the world around us.

Cage’s brief discussion of the role of silence reminded me of a very memorable experience in which I was fortunate enough to play a gig with Joel Spencer, a prominent jazz drummer in Chicago: When Spencer soloed, he left a measure of silence on his first chorus, and increased the amount of empty bars on each repetition until he eventually “played” a full chorus of silence. His point was that silence is an equally useful and integral component of music as sound. Cage’s perspective -- that both sound and silence share a common denominator of silence -- reinforces the lesson I learned from Joel Spencer back home.

Some Rules for Students and Teachers, John Cage

Finally, although I found all of these rules valuable and interesting, I particularly liked numbers four and six: Respectively, “Consider everything an experiment” and “Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.” In this sense, the process of composition and creation as a vehicle of self-discovery is equally significant, if not more so, than the final product. Also, I have always appreciated how art is able to transcend competitive “winner/loser” attitudes and foster collaboration between people of all walks of life.

The Walk Book, Janet Cardiff

Although it was strange to me how the author seemed to pit hearing and vision against each other (what’s the competition?), I certainly felt enlightened after reading about all the specialized functions of hearing, such as hearing inside the body, or listening for danger while sleeping.  This reading highlighted the necessity to understand the nuanced details of our media (sound, light) in order to truly exploit it to its full potential. 


Devin's responses

Devin Mooers
Article Respondifying

JOHN CAGE RULES: Most of these, really insightful. Make me smile, or just ponder for a moment. Most of the them I read with that sensation that happens when I know (or think I know) that I'm reading truth. Some really interesting ones, like Rule Five: self-discipline is just following someone else. YES, never thought about it this way before, but it resonates with me. Some people have said that I have great self-discipline for e.g. doing a raw food diet for 8 months, and I learned to say that self-discipline is just remembering what you want. That meshes pretty perfectly with this Rule Five, in that it's much easier to want something strongly when you see someone else benefiting from it (and so you follow them). One rule I don't agree with: "Save everything -- it might come in handy later." NO. This is a packrat's curse. I've found that by systematically eliminating almost every material object I own, I have become more creative in re-purposing and multi-purposing things. And I've become better and quicker at eliminating attachments to material objects and possessions. I think that keeping everything around, hoarding things, might prove useful for certain projects, but if you don't have such things around, you just find new ways of doing things, which I think is more valuable.

JOHN CAGE MUSIC/FILM: My main reaction to this is to the second-to-last paragraph, where Cage calls to integrate music and sound departments in film studios. I think this has happened to some extent, but what's even more important to me is melding audio and visual departments in film studios, which has NOT happened. Sound goes to an independent sound house like Skywalker, and visuals go to ILM or Weta or what have you. But it's rare to have a really cogent dialogue between post-pro sound and visuals creators, and the quality of films really suffers for it. They could be much more audiovisually integrated.

JANET CARDIFF: I was really confused for the first half of this reading, because I had no idea what Janet Cardiff's works were. But after sort of figuring it out, they sound AWESOME. Her art and observations really support the real-life interplay between our hearing and vision, especially related to survival. You look for visual confirmation, for causality, after hearing something strange, and feel very odd and out-of-sorts when you don't get that visual confirmation (which happens quite a bit in Cardiff's work, from what I gather). Really interesting-sounding work, I'd love to experience it!

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