[20. Kuan / Contemplation (View), Six in the Third Place. Changing To: 53. Chien / Development (Gradual Progress)]
3:00 A.M. Irish tenor singing
loudly in our living room. Without knocking, having left
his bed, Graves entered, carrying wooden
birdcage, bottom of which
was missing, plopped it over the tenor’s head, said nothing, left the
room. No further singing that
This is the final Monday post of this blog (I’ll end with a final post a year from Monday, September 5th 2011 this Wednesday), and I decided to end my weekly ritual with an interesting later essay, “Series re Morris Graves,” where Cage looks back reflectively at his time in Seattle, where he first met Graves at the Cornish School in Seattle. I’m feeling a bit reflective myself, but I’ll save the retrospective for September 5th.
Cage’s essay on Graves was composed in a format similar to the “Diary” entries and other essays from his later period, whereby he arranged a series of anecdotes with differing page layouts, indents and so forth across the page. Interspersed among the anecdotes are a series of nonsyntactical dance-chants of I-Ching determined syllables of names and words from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna arranged according to metrical patterns from one of Cage’s first works for percussion, his Quartet (1936 or 1937 – not 1935 as Cage later annotated in the autograph score). The anecdote surrounding Cage’s first meeting with Morris Graves was repeated often, and is outlined and referred to throughout the essay. Cage was performing his Quartet, along with several other percussion works at the Cornish school in 1939 and Graves, ready to play the part of resident heckler, arrived at the concert with a bag of peanuts and pretend-lorgnettes. At the start of the third movement, he threw his head back and screamed “Jesus in the Everywhere!,” and was subsequently dragged out of the concert hall. The two became friends the next day.
Graves’ Dada antics surely influenced and amused the young Cage, perhaps more so than his actual paintings; Cage speaks less of Graves’ style and aesthetic than other contemporaries of the Pacific Northwest school of artists. As I mentioned in an earlier post on Mark Tobey, there is an excellent book on the relationship between Graves, Tobey, and Cage assembled by Wulf Herzogenrath, Sounds of the Inner Eye.
I’ll admit that some of these anecdotes are harder to pin down, as I am not as familiar with Graves’ oeuvre, but the undertone is, like many other artist essays, very personal and affectionate, outlining the various interactions between the two artists throughout their careers. The nonsyntactical interjections are particularly striking. Take the following example, which highlights the memorable first encounter:
Finally, the master himself
sends various things to the house, such
as a carpet, a hubble-bubble for smoking, and the like.
Friedman-Kein saw thirty Instruments for New
Navigation, elements for forty more. Told Duncan
Phillips how marvelous they were. NASA
invited Graves to Goddard Space Flight Center and Cape
Kennedy to discuss aesthetics of orbital travel. Came
to the concert with friends, a large bag of peanuts, and
lorgnette with doll’s eyes suspended in it. “If
he does anything upsetting, take him out.”
After the slow movement, he said:
Jesus in the Everywhere. That was taken as the signal
It would be tempting to correlate the specific excerpts to the exact rhythmic groupings in the final movement of Cage’s Quartet, perhaps revealing a bit about this underanalyzed early piece.
As the text progresses, the font alternates between very large and very small, perhaps reflecting the “pontifical” nature of certain anecdotes, as Cage had done with his Darmstadt lectures.
Lost in the forest, don’t move around; stay in one place. That way you will be at the center, and the center will act as a magnet, a magnet for those who are searching.