Anarchy: New York City-January 1988

Anarchy: New York City-January 1988

by John Cage

Now widely available of the first time, Anarchy marks the culmination of Cage's work as a poet, composer and as a thinker about contemporary society.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Poetry
  • Rating: 3.70
  • Pages: 81
  • Publish Date: July 15th 2001 by Wesleyan University Press
  • Isbn10: 0819564664
  • Isbn13: 9780819564665

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I don't know when I finally got to hear his music but it was probably when I got my 1st record by him in 1973: Variations IV - Volume II - John Cage, assisted by David Tudor. By 1977 I was asked by an artist friend, Augusta Leigh MacDonald, to teach her about Cage's work & I gave her an 11 wk course on it for wch I wd've picked representative works of his that I thought exemplified innovative breakthrus: things like his 1st prepared piano piece, "Bacchanale", the absolutely incredible "Credo in Us", the aforementioned "Variations IV", his collaboration w/ Lejaren Hiller, "HPSCHD", "Cartridge Music", etc.. 1 John Cage record that included his "62 Mesostics re Merce Cunningham". The record sleeve even had 2 sample Mesostics w/ considerably more imaginative typography than Anarchy does.. For one thing, I was in the midst of writing my 1st bk, wch was finished by the summer of 1977, & this bk was definitely experimental at a significant level - I'm still inclined to think that it hasn't rc'vd a truly deep reading yet 39 yrs after it was published - so I wd've been more critical of Cage's writing innovation as not really that innovative. In other words, Cage, a thinker/producer still of colossal importance to me to this day, was beginning to seem like someone who was slowing down w/ old age (he was 58 or 59 when the Mesostics were created) & I was just getting started. I'd read the Cage edited Notations & found it utterly wonderful & I'd read the Cage Great Bear pamphlet published by Dick Higgins called "Diary: How to Improve the World (You will Only make Matters Worse) continued Part Three" (1967) but to this day haven't read his major bks wch include: Silence, A Year from Monday, & Empty Words. It was w/ this abundance of familiarity w/ Cage's work & simultaneous lack of reading of his bks as a background that I was very happily surprised to find copies of a bk by him that I'd never heard of w/ a title referring to a subject central to my interests in the Strand bkstore in NYC in July, 2016: Anarchy! The original typing may've actually read as "named" but since "named" is a word it wd pass the spell check since the app wdn't be able to check for correct meaning. - of course I'm not getting PAID OK, w/ that out of the way, let's move on to more important things: Cage took 30 quotes relevant to anarchy & made 20 mesostics out of them. He explains the process in a preface: "The themes of Themes and Variations are the names of fifteen of the men who have been most important to me in my life and work. They might continue: 'Where are the masks & the Molotov cocktails & the broken windows?!' However, if such a hypothetical person were even capable of producing a statement even that coherent they'd still be highly unlikely to read Cage's Anarchy - even an improbable cursory glance wd tell them that this is some-kind-of-weird-poetry-bk. I remember reading somewhere that Cage didn't declare himself as an anarchist until he was 60 - yr 1972 or 1973. I don't recall anarchy being a widely disseminated concept at the time, SO it's interesting that Cage & I wd've read the same bk. One of the quotes Cage based a mesostic around not from the Berman bk is this: "Anarchists or revolutionists can no more be made than musicians. SO, as w/ pretty much all poetry, I won't be able to accurately SPATIALLY quote "I" in Anarchy, the 1st of the mesostics, b/c I can't place each line of text in such a way so that the capitals line up to make the vertical text. STILL, you'll get the idea from the following: "sPirit of him for onE corporaTions arE failuRe Know-how of aRe idOls will free rePublic each thrOugh Them in maKe I to me aNarchism" - p 1 The caps spell "PETER KROPOTKIN" a famous Russian anarchist. In the preface or introduction or whatever Cage states that he's trying "to find a way of writing which through coming from ideas is not about them; or is not about ideas but produces them." (p vi) He also says "My mesostic texts do not make ordinary sense. I like the results but I probably still attach more importance to what Emma Goldman had to say, eg. "diSTILLed Life / rfeEINr Ashairenm / reFINEr Anarchism / reINfer Arachnism" - I've seen a local leader of a hierarchically organized orchestra perform a program of Cage works & throw around the word "anarchy" but it's all just bullshit. In the long run, it's the experience of people like William Buwalda that's important, NOT Cage's poetry: "In San Francisco, in 1908, Emma Goldman's lecture attracted a soldier of the United States Army, William Buwalda. For daring to attend an Anarchist meeting, the free Republic court-martialed Buwalda and imprisoned him for one year. (Hippolyte Havel, Biographic Sketch of Emma Goldman, 1910)." - p viii & here's a somewhat fuller description of his story: "On April 26th of 1908, Buwalda attended Goldmans lecture at Waltons Pavilion in San Francisco wearing his full Army uniform. In January of 1909, Emma Goldman announced that anarchists across the country had raised one thousand dollars for Buwalda to begin a new life after prison. "That new life started rapidly when Buwalda became an anarchist orator!

Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 433, the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played. Another famous creation of Cage's is the prepared piano (a piano with its sound altered by placing various objects in the strings), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces, the best known of which is Sonatas and Interludes (194648).