This second interaction in the Sonicflux series focuses on John Cage -- at once
the most influential, controversial, well-loved, and widely ridiculed composer
of the late twentieth century. He became known for his expression of ideas that
questioned existing notions of sound and music, silence and the role of the composer.
Influenced by Zen Buddhism and the I Ching, Cage attempted to remove the
ego of the composer and focus instead on such ideas as a faith in the rightness
of the moment. Considered challenging perhaps even difficult to listen to, much
of Cage's later work is randomly-determined or indeterminate, multi-interpretable,
and unpredictable. Just as he wanted it.
The online piece brings together a range of different ideas in Cage's work -- chance-determination, systems, non-intention, and the creative process. In keeping with these ideas, the piece is built on a system that allows for a wide range of possibilities. The authors are, in fact, not entirely sure what it is going to do. It might well do very little for a while, an allowed for possibility, as in much of Cage's work with his ideas on silence.
Elements and ideas have been drawn from various areas of Cage's work -- his writing, printmaking, several of his scores, his work with the choreographer Merce Cunningham, and his oral performances recorded at the Walker Art Center. Cage often used chance-determination within a system to create situations where, as Cunningham put it, "anything could happen." In this online piece, chance-determination is used to decide the display and behavior of each element. The graphics and the sound, as in the work of Cage and Cunningham, are acting independently of each other, allowing for unforeseen relationships and fortuitous happenstance.
The system is self-generating, including it's acting upon itself as elements collide and exchange behaviors. Though interaction was kept intentionally minimal, viewers are able to have some impact on the situation, often in unseen ways. The different elements change then disappear, each with any number of possible behaviors and levels of reactions assigned to them.
Each launch of the piece sets off a new chain of events, a new experience. Not unlike Cage's work, it may take more than a glance to come to know it. It runs on it's own timetable. Upon viewing, remember that as Cage would have said, "there is no such thing as chance."
This piece was created by Jeff Feddersen & Trudy Lane, with thanks to Joel Pickard for his work with the oral recordings of John Cage and Dana Arvig for additional programming. If you would be interested to contribute additional sound files to the current sound bank, please contact us.
shockwave player 8+