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Thursday, April 21, 2011

RAW and John Cage

In an earlier blog post, I expressed surprise that I had not run across any prose by Robert Anton Wilson suggesting he was interested in modern classical music. Given his interest in classical music and in new ideas, it surprised me that he seldom wrote about the classical music avante-garde after about 1945 or so.

It's possible that I just hadn't run across the right interviews, or the right passages of prose. When I listened to the Hour of Slack interview, I was surprised to run across a reference to John Cage. Just more than 44 minutes in, talking about the balance between "something and nothing," after Ivan Stang has mentioned a seminar by RAW in which RAW asked people to "listen to the silence," RAW mentions that "If you listen, you hear the nothing in between the somethings, as John Cage has pointed out in his book on music called Silence."

"Listening to the silence" by the way, which Stang says RAW asked his listeners to do, sounds a lot like the most famous John Cage composition, 4'33".


Oz Fritz said...

I attended a seminar in New York where RAW gave that exercise. He didn't mention John Cage but it reminded me of 4'33". I heard, though don't know if true, that he found the exercise somewhere in the General Semantics material.

Eric Wagner said...

I do 4'33" with my high school music class every year. The first time I did it eleven years ago it surprised me that they would stay quiet that long.

I read a biography of Stockhausen which told of the huge impact Cage had when he first went to Europe. He had many new ideas very different from the Webern-esque serialism popular with the avant garde at the time.

Bob Wilson and John Cage shared a fascination with Finnegans Wake. Interestingly, one edition of the Wake has the paragraph "SILENCE." on page 433. I don't know if this influenced Cage. (I wonder what Crowley would have thought of it.)

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