Dutch artist Zeger Reyers and I had collaborated previously on a work in the Paul Thek show at ZKM Karlsruhe in 2008. A few months ago we joined together to create works for this show in Vienna dedicated to John Cage on the centenary of his birth. These works involve growing mushrooms on top of specially made blank score papers—the mushrooms become the ‘musical material’ as they grow on the scores. Zeger is great w growing mushrooms. (We’ve even used some psylicibin ‘shrooms in one of the boxes, but please keep that to yrself). I created the blank scores which were sent to Zeger in Holland. He built and seeded the boxes w mushroom spores. A bunch of documentation of this work is below, including both our catalog writings…
Quite a while ago I’ve heard about the possibilities of some kind of fungi being able to move, in search for goodies, with a simple kind of ‘brain’ / ….
and on top of that they can move back and front between a singlecellular and a multicellular stage..
That’s my symbol of freedom for John..
“Fungi will always walk the water Walk”
– Welcome the Myxomycetes –
8 Jan. 2012 – The Hague, NL
I remember John talking about how he didn’t like to listen to a record more than once. What was the point? If one gave oneself over to the experience the first time, then why repeat? He didn’t really care for the idea of music as ‘fixed in time’ on a black platter. He said he’d rather open the window and listen to the trucks rolling by, or whatever else was coming in-the constantly changing music of NOW rather than a packaged simulacra of ‘then’. Of course that’s the real idea behind 4’33”–it’s not a silent piece at all-there is always sound! Those comments have long stayed with me, in spite of the fact that I love both making records and playing records-often the same ones over and over again.
In 1982 I performed with Glenn Branca’s large ensemble at New Music America in Chicago. Cage was also in Chicago that year. I’m not sure if it was the first time John had heard Glenn’s music or not, but after seeing our performance he made some comments to the effect that it was a form of ‘musical fascism’ (with Glenn as all-powerful conductor pulling this music out of his ensemble), and for that he felt uneasy, uncomfortable with it. His comments caused quite a little stir at the time, perhaps more so than he intended, but it’s clear that his interest was in trying to move music in a different direction, away from the dominance of the composer/conductor and towards a much more ‘Zen’ or ‘landscape’ approach to sound creation and presentation, much closer to the unorchestrated randomness of the trucks rolling by outside his windows…
My friend, the Portuguese composer Rafael Toral, once told me his story of being a young composer, back in 1992, and writing to Cage to request permission to stage a piece of his in Lisbon. This was in the days before email (I don’t know if John ever used email) and he sent his letter off to John and Merce’s Westbeth address. Some time passed and he heard nothing, and then that summer it was announced that Cage had died. As well as sorrow for the death of the great composer, my friend felt a sadness at not having been granted permission to go ahead with his version of John’s piece. He assumed he’d have to forgo the idea. However, a week or so later, a letter came in the mail. John had written him, giving his approval. Somehow that story always reminds me of the often-surprising nature of John’s music!
New York City January 2012