John Cage and Morton Feldman in Conversation, 1967




Listening to a recent recording of Morton Feldman’s For John Cage today (on this new recording of his Works for violin and piano, I searched on the web for some information about Feldman and Cage, and found these very fascinating recordings of the two of them in conversation, recorded for WBAI in 1967, and available from Archive.org.

I: July 9 1966
On intrusions – is it reality or culture? The role of the artist – deep in thought.
Is it possible to avoid the environment around us? Being constantly interrupted? Larry Rivers, Bob Rauschenberg, Franz Kline, Schoenberg, Stockhausen, Boulez, Black Mountain College. On boredom and Zen, Buckminster Fuller.

II: July 1966
Governments, modern music, freedom from being known. Writing for large or small ensembles. Boulez and Stockhausen’s reactions. Writing for Christian Wolff and electric guitar. de Kooning. Lukas Foss. Cage comments on Feldman’s soft sounds. Having stamina to make an action. On working alone. Working “at home”. Being asocial and the telephone. Edgard Varese. The question of death.

III: 28 December 1966
“There is so little talk these days.” Talking in England. The ICA lectures. Kitaj. David Sylvester. English pompousness. Cardew. Compositions as “work-in-progress”. Thinking about Mozart. Webern and other possibilities for new music. Differences between Boulez and Stockhausen piano pieces. Varese and process. Space, silence, notation, scales. Finding the vertical. Grandeur of Varese. Stockhausen’s refusal. Looking into the future. Buckminster Fuller’s ideas on ending war.

IV: 16 January 1967 (Part 1)
Design in a disposable world. How our sense of time has changed. “How do we spend our time?” Conversation as enjoyment. Impermanence and music. “Do you prefer the composition, or hearing the music?” Feldman working on “In Search of an Orchestration”. Composers silent on Vietnam. Painters are not. Protests in Europe. Fuller’s views and World Resources Inventory. Global Village.

V: 16 January 1967 (Part 2)
Varese or Webern? On Boulez. On an upcoming concert in Cincinnati.
Problems, stories of performances. “Why do you continue to compose?” Creating new notation. Students making compositions. The way things are done nowadays. Things are “less narrow now”.
Children, and the Middle Ages. “If we apply ourselves to the social situation… as composition rather than criticism, we’ll get somewhere!”

Interestingly, I started listening while playing Feldman’s For John Cage in the background, and this was strangely satisfying.

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