Writings About Music
Few know the actual circumstances of 4' 33'' by John Cage, who I had the pleasure of knowing. He envisioned it for an outdoor rustic theater in upstate New York where he knew the sounds of nature would predominate, in confluence with his hero, Henry David Thoreau, who also found the natural sounds of nature sublime. In point of fact, the first performance was informed by the sounds of the wind and trees in the first movement; the sounds of rain fortuitously appearing in the second movement; and the audience murmuring in confusion and disapproval for the third movement.
Yesterday, I was in Eagle Rock, the birthplace of John Cage, where he became the high school valedictorian. Strangely enough, I was there to make music louder, which is in the opposite direction of silence, but that’s another story.
Driving into Eagle Rock by way of an serpentining assemblage of surface streets resembling Larsen’s Opening, I was struck by the beauty of the mountains painted starkly naked in a pageantry of browns with carousel-like spreading trees in soft greens just below. There is a soothing gentleness about this town; an awesome innocence where there is no time but rather just good things and bad things.
The quality of the air does suffer, it being a ways from the ocean, and the California drought removing normal cleansings of the atmosphere by rain. It is proving to be too great an effort for civilization to change in order to preserve our earth. We feel no resonance for those who might follow us if they had an inhabitable place to live; for those who might hear our music someday. This is the benign indifference of the universe manifesting - the prevailing sound of silence.
- Michael Robinson, July 2016, Los Angeles
© 2016 Michael Robinson All rights reserved
Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).