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John Cage Footnotes

1. In The Roaring Silence, David Revill notes that "It was also in the Imaginary Landscape that Cage first employed his system of rhythmic structure. The simple figures that constitute the piece fit into a scheme of four sections consisting of three times five measures which are separated by interludes which increase in length additively from one to three measures; the piece ends with a four-measure coda (65-66).

2. The English version, For the Birds, John Cage in conversation with Daniel Charles, was published by Marion Boyars (Boston and London) in 1981. The actual interviews were begun in 1968 but were submitted by Charles to Cage for revision and commentary and not published until 1976 under the title Pour les oiseaux.

3. The I Ching or Book or Book of Changes has, of course, been a source book for many poets and artists. Cage's own use of the I Ching began in 1950, when Christian Wolff gave him the new Bollingen (Princeton) two-volume edition of the English translation by Cary F. Baynes of Richard Wilhelm's German translation with the introduction by C. G. Jung. The magic square of 64 hexagrams, Cage explains in "Tokyo Lecture," transferred to the computer, "works musically to tell me for instance how many sound events take place in what length of time, at what points in time, on which instruments, having what loudnesses, etc. And in my writing it lets me continue, in a variety of ways, my search for a means which comes from ideas but is not about them but nevertheless produces them free of my intentions" (pp. 178-79). Mac Low has used similar techniques, first by throwing coins and dice, later with the computer, to determine factors of 64 that govern individual lineation and stanzaic structure.

4. See, for example, John Cage, Roaratorio, An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake, p. 173.

5. Cage was not satisfied with his "writing through" of Pound's Cantos. "Now that I've done so [i.e., "written through" them]," he remarks in an interview, "I must say that I don't regard them as highly as I do the Wake. The reason is that there are about four or five ideas that keep reappearing in the Cantos, so that in the end the form resembles something done with stencils, where the color doesn't really change. There's not that kind of complexity, or attention to detail, as there is in Joyce"; see Richard Kostelanetz, Conversing with Cage, p. 152.

No doubt, Cage also objected to Pound's studious elimination of the very words Cage himself liked best-- prepositions, conjunctions, articles, pronouns--and that Pound's parataxis of nouns and noun phrases made any "writing through" extremely difficult. Much more suitable for his purposes was Allen Ginsberg's "Howl"; I have written of Cage's brilliant deconstruction of that poem in "A Lion in Our Living Room: Reading Allen Ginsberg in the Eighties," Poetic License: Essays in Modernist and Postmodernist Lyric, pp. 219-22.

6. On the piece as a whole, see my "'A Duchamp Unto Myself': Writing Through Marcel," in John Cage: Composed in America.

7. For Cage's account of the evolution and design of "Art Is Either a Complaint or Do Something Else," see Retallack, pp. 109-114. Unlike "What You Say. . .", this piece is based on separate statements made by Johns, appearing in different contexts.

8. These program notes were not included in the printed version in Formations, evidently because there is no way the instructions could be followed during a silent reading of the text. What status, then, does the printed text have? It is, we might say, a score that must be activated, an incomplete verbal-visual construct that needs to be "audiated."

9. I am not counting "different" or "interests" because in standard American speech (and certainly in Jasper Johns's Southern idolect) both words are pronounced as having only two syllables: "dif-rent," "in-trests." The seven words are "another" (used twice), "tendency," "occupy," "suddenly," "inserted," "situation," and "miniaturized."

10. Again, syllable count is not the same in the oral performance as in the written. When spoken, "miniaturized" usually has four syllables: "min-ya-tyuw-riyzd."

11. Cage's reading of this and related mesostics is, in many ways, inimitable, his soft, neutral California speech rhythms giving the pattern of sounds and silences of the lineated text an edge not quite duplicatable when anyone else (myself included) reads the "score."

12. John Cage, "Second Conversation with Joan Retallack," Conversations with John Cage, Wesleyan University Press, 1996.