Leave It or Double It

2012
Gregory Whitehead

Whitehead writes, "All I knew for sure from the outset is that I would aim for a duration of 33:33, and that I would use the source material of translated excerpts from the Turin newspaper La Stampa regarding the 1959 appearance of a young American composer named John Cage on an Italian television quiz show Lascia o Raddiopia. I was careful not to practice or rehearse the texts in any way, but simply confront them in a single take (no way to correct mushroom pronunciation mistakes!), using what I think of as my "late night radio voice", a persona that resonates well with my memories of John Cage. 

My most extended and personal conversation with Cage transpired at an unlikely location: Skywalker Ranch. I noticed that Cage was not eating the catered food; he had his own little dish of brown rice and mushrooms. This led to a fantastic and quite comic conversation about mushrooms, and I have since come to believe that his foraging and his fascination for these fungal organisms are absolutely critical to understanding his philosophy and art. His sense of humor is legendary; on that day, at the storied birthplace of Star Wars, he was in very fine fettle indeed.

The performance he gave at Skywalker used the form of voicing a passage, then playing a recording back into the room while voicing a second section, and so on, gradually creating a rather fungal compost of words, ideas, and decay. This would be my structure as well, though performed in private, only to be made public through the radio broadcast on WGXC. Each little mention in La Stampa receives its own generation, irregardless of length. 

Additional tracks are improvisations played by me on bowed cigar box guitar, plucked psaltery and gently thrummed turntable. 

I kept post-performance shaping to a minimum, and let myself be guided if not by the I Ching than by the mysterious whispers of Hermes, and by my memories of that most passionate forager and mycologist, John Cage."