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All Things Cage: Lecture on Commitment

Sep 06, 2021: 4am - 5am
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All Things Cage: Laura Kuhn and John Cage, Lecture on Commitment Broadcast Image

All Things Cage: Laura Kuhn and John Cage, Lecture on Commitment Broadcast Image. Courtesy the John Cage Trust.

Hosted by Laura Kuhn, Executive Director of the John Cage Trust.

On this the eve of what would be John Cage’s 109th birthday, Laura Kuhn talks about and plays a recording of Cage performing a little-known text work entitled Lecture on Commitment, which dates from 1961, the year that his first and still seminal book Silence was being readied for publication by Wesleyan University Press. Lecture on Commitment was published six years later, in 1967, in Cage’s A Year from Monday. Tonight’s “All Things Cage” digs a bit into Cage’s relationship with Wesleyan University, as it was one of the very few venues where Cage held anything resembling an academic position – in its Center for Advanced Studies, where he was in residence in 1960-61 and again in 1969-70. Cage would return to Wesleyan many times over the ensuring years, and in 1988 attended its stellar “John Cage at Wesleyan: A Festival/Symposium About Cage’s Work and Influence,” spearheaded by long-time Wesleyan faculty member, Neely Bruce. And, of course, Wesleyan University Press would be Cage’s principal book publisher throughout his life.

We listen to Lecture on Commitment twice – before and after words about it – and bring the program to a close with a performance of Cage’s Perpetual Tango, yet another adaptation by Cage of a composition originally by Erik Satie, performed here by the pianist Yvar Mikashoff, who requested it for his tango collection. Mikashoff was a much beloved performer who died far too young, on Oct. 11, 1993, a little over one year after John Cage.

All Things Cage is a weekly program featuring conversations between Laura Kuhn, Director of the John Cage Trust, and Cage experts and enthusiasts from around the world. If you’d like to propose a guest or a topic for a future program, write directly to Laura at lkuhn@johncage.org. She’d love to hear from you.

The late Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Kenneth Silverman once described his Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage (Knopf, 2012) as the hardest book he’d ever written. This was because, as he put it, pick up any rock and there’s John Cage! Indeed, Cage was not only a world-renowned composer, numbering among his compositions the still notoriously tacet 4’33”, but a ground-breaking poet, a philosopher, a chess master who studied with Marcel Duchamp, a macrobiotic chef, a devotee of Zen Buddhism, a prolific visual artist, and an avid and pioneering mycologist. He was also life partner to the celebrated American choreographer, Merce Cunningham, for nearly half a century, and thus well known in the world of modern dance.

No wonder, then, that nearly everyone who encounters the man or his life’s work has something interesting to say about John Cage!