John Cage talked about sound having no inherent, essential character, or personality and that it forever remained mysterious, unknown, resisting any of our attempts to interpret it (and then perhaps implicit in this statement is an idea that any effort to understand it was a waste of our time).
I love this interview for many reasons (including the way it's recorded, with the traffic sound from the street, captured from New York's Sixth Avenue). 'If you listen to traffic it's always different ...'
(Though I'm not sure why there is a bit of Baker and a French composer added to the end; just skip that part maybe).
Cage is challenging us here because we like to interpret sounds; indeed it's an essential part of how we engage with art, keeping it at a distance from us while we also seek to possess it. We offer our opinions and make value judgements, or interpret sounds as having some kind of emotional quality. We hold onto the experience of listening as if it were fixed, reflecting something about who we are.
I sincerely appreciate the humility of Cage here, is it possible for us to just listen and respond to something as it is?
'Our next contestant please will you come in ...'
I'll return to writing more about Cage later, funnily enough I started writing something else thinking that I could use the above interview and then ended up here (where?) trawling the archives and remembering why I ...
Here is one of my most beloved pieces of music.