“I have nothing to say, and I’m saying it.” is one of these memorable quotes by Cage, which traced new neural paths for our perception of art.
Months ago I promised myself to reach out a bit more to those who have been willing to listen to the pieces I’ve been concocting for about 40 years, when daily composing really started for me. Did I have much to say these years? I can’t say.
Still, here I am. Quoting Cage whom I revere. The slow and totally absorbing reading during a holiday of James Pritchett’s masterly account of Cage’s musical career, is still one of my fondest memories. I ‘knew’ Cage of course already for a long time. I’ve always liked Cage as much for the graphic aspects of his scores as for the acoustic results. And I admired him even more when both -sound and vision- came together in videos in which he talked and most important for me, laughed.
A smiling composer. What a treat!
Thinking about Cage conjures up images of a smiling Gandalf like figure, carefully combing the woods while looking for mushrooms. Smiling. Always smiling.
How different he was from many other composers, living or long dead, the latter often frowning as a kind of plea to be taken serious. By whom? Don’t these serious composers know that the only serious thing about composing is being dead serious in establishing one’s own goals, and then seriously going for them? Of course they know: it’s not a wrinkled face which will give the pieces their preponderancy. What gives the ‘parcours’ of a composer ‘gravity’ is the way he of she succeeds in shedding the obstacles always popping up when venturing forward (or sideways, why not) into unknown country. Even if it is only unknown country for he or she concerned.
I must confess that frequently I’ve been seriously mistaken about what I sometimes perceived as stuck-upness of some composers. I can’t say that I really love Helmut Lachenmann’s music. (I don’t ‘like’ Bach either, sorry…) Though I understand that what he says is very very very interesting and not to be ‘laughed at’ at all… When photographed I always zoomed in on the dark circles around his eyes, which made him for me a man for who life is almost unbearable heavy. Here’s a philosopher, more, a German philosopher, who’s words drained all the well-being from my already often threatened well of happiness.
Then, on youtube, I lately saw him talking about this incredible opera ‘Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern’ . What a surprise when suddenly I discovered this mischievous twinkle in his eyes. And everything he talks about in this video becomes appealing. I have the score of this piece, and I can assure you, nothing is ‘light’ in it. Especially for the (vocal) performers whom he challenges in ways never done before him. But man, this sparkle!
It’s the smile who helped me discover something which kept crawling away from me.
It’s a smile which I’ve almost all the time been trying to bring about in my music.
I’ve been serious about this. Though the perceived ensuing fun or lightness often proved to be a problem for serious music lovers (or professionals), fearing I’m only exhibiting bad taste or that I willingly and fraudulently undermine the values of serious art.
I’m now smiling too. Yann’s recovering fast. And although the past 2 weeks have been quite ominous, I have the feeling that, for the moment we’re living in the eye of the storm. I I imagine an eye with crow’s feet around it. And a face readying its muscles to chuckle 🙂