[61. Chung Fu / Inner Truth, Nine in the Second Place, Six in the Fourth Place, Nine in the Fifth Place. Changing To: 3. Chun / Difficulty at the Beginning.]
I’m busy traveling these next two Mondays, hopping on the LAX-JFK thoroughfare, so these posts will be brief. Luckily, both readings are brief: this week’s is another installment of the “Indeterminacy” series of anecdotes I’ve discussed in the past (HERE). I was struck by today’s I-Ching reading, two hexagrams I had yet to encounter; the reading of the changing line in the second place for Chung Fu was particularly interesting:
Confucius says about this line:
The superior man abides in his room. If his words are well spoken, he meets with assent at a distance of more than a thousand miles. How much more then from near by? If the superior man abides in his room and his words are not well spoken, he meets with contradiction at a distance of more than a thousand miles. How much more then from near by! Words go forth from one’s own person and exert their influence on men. Deeds are born close at hand and become visible far away. Words and deeds are the hinge and bowspring of the superior man. As hinge and bowspring move, they bring honor or disgrace. Through words and deeds the superior man moves heaven and earth. Must one not, then, be cautious?
Following Confucius, and perhaps Strunk and White, I hope that every word here tells, and nothing more. As Xenia Cage once said, “only one rule: no silliness.”
“How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run,” followed the strategy of “Indeterminacy,” where Cage read each anecdote evenly over the course of one minute alongside David Tudor. This time, however, the reading was the “accompaniment” (in the Cage/Cunningham sense) to Merce Cunningham’s dance of the same name.
|John Cage and Merce Cunningham performing "How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run"|
Carolyn Brown wrote an excellent summary of the dance in her recent memoir.”How To…” followed on the heels of Variations V (1965), the Cage/Cunningham immersive multimedia extravaganza, and was a simple, improvisatory (dare I say) work with no set design, “wild, fast for the most part—with intricate space, and in-and-out continuity—I love it,” recalls Brown. She later recalled the basic structure of the dance:
As the title implies, it has the high-energy leaps and jumps, runs and falls one sees in sports activities, but without any literal reference to a particular sport. It was “dance-y,” with interesting groupings, changes in dynamics, rhythmic variety. Chance procedures were used to chart entrances and exits, paths in space, speed, levels, numbers of dancers—the usual gamut of possibilities Merce tended to employ for group dancers, but the phrasing, the inner rhythms, were not dictated. Much of the time, we could discover these for ourselves. What felt so different from precious dances constructed with chance procedures was the sense of liberation, which allowed exuberance, joyfulness, and pure fun. Even tenderness!
Carolyn Brown, ChanceAnd Circumstance: Twenty Years With Cage and Cunningham, p. 461.
As Brown notes, the dance was also accompanied by David Tudor’s electronic manipulations of the earlier recording of the “Indeterminacy” lecture, thus adding another layer of anecdotes to the electronic palette of sounds. The first thirty anecdotes Cage reproduced in A Year From Monday were used for a 1958 performance in Brussels, and the remaining seven, all of which are quite long, were new. I’ve already discussed the meaning and import of anecdotes in Cage’s career, as well as the Indeterminacy series in general, and I’ll point anyone interested in the entire collection to the Indeterminacy Project at the John Cage Trust HERE. Laura Kuhn has assembled 190 of these stories on a website that randomly generates the next story. They are reproduced in the same temporal format on a single note card that enabled Cage to time out his reading over one minute.
Since I’ve already spent considerable time recounting these anecdotes, and I’ll end here with a focus on the final one, which I feel is an important point to stress in the Cage biography regarding mushrooms, particularly Amanita muscariai, the mushroom species known to have hallucinatory effects popularized in the 1960s drug counterculture. Naturally, one with only a passing interest in Cage’s eclectic and curious personality and career would, upon hearing about his interest in mushrooms, tend to make some assumptions here. But as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Cage had no interest in hallucinatory drugs of any kind, and was far removed from the 60s countercultural belief that hallucinations bred meaningful artistic creations. This he states clearly in the final anecdote:
When I mention my interest in mushrooms, most people immediately asks whether I’ve had any visions. I have to tell them that I’m very old-fashioned, practically puritanical, that all I do is smoke like a furnace—now with two filters and a coupon in every pack—and that I drink coffee morning, noon, and night. I would also drink alcohol but I made the mistake of going to a doctor who doesn’t permit it. The visions I hear about don’t interest me. Dick Higgins said he ate a little muscaria and it made him see some rabbits. Valentina Wasson ate the divine mushrooms in Mexico and imagined she was in eighteenth-century Versailles hearing some Mozart. Without any dope at all other than caffeine and nicotine, I’ll be in San Francisco tomorrow hearing some of my own music and on Sunday, God willing, I’ll awake in Hawaii with papayas and pineapples for breakfast. There’ll be sweet-smelling flowers, brightly colored birds, people swimming in the surf, and (I’ll bet you a nickel) a rainbow at some point during the day sky.