Kyle Gann Interrogates Some Cageian 'Sleights-of-Hand'

Composer Kyle Gann of the intelligent and often highly insightful blog PostClassic has published the text of a talk he delivered at the Cage100 Symposium, which recently took place in Lubin, Poland.

The talk, entitled ‘Silence in the Rearview Mirror’, is in Gann’s own words a ‘rather curmudgeonly examination of Cage’s occasional twisting of logic in certain articles in Silence.’ Whilst as Gann himself admits the talk tends to the curmudgeonly (and sometimes feels too literal minded) it is a rather fine piece of nitpicking skewerism. Of many highlights:

We know that Cage was dubious about improvisation as well, and on the same back cover page we find, “Music as discourse (jazz) doesn’t work. If you’re going to have a conversation, have it and use words.” Now, to say that “music as discourse doesn’t work” is an intriguing thought, perhaps leading us to some discussion of the divergences between actual language and music understood as a language. But to slyly stick the word jazz in there in parentheses as an apposite to music as discourse is, I submit, a rather stunning feat of intellectual dishonesty.

Published on 7 June 2012

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