September 6, 2013

We possess nothing

There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.” ― John Cage
I was exploring John Cage's minimalistic music earlier today -  like I wrote earlier, some days you need quiet. And in the spaces between the quiet, you need some notes.

Also, listen to this lovely meditative piece, composed for 5 voices, which is one of his many  Number pieces, a body of late compositions by John Cage where "each piece is named after the number of performers involved: for instance, Seven is a piece for seven performers, One9 (read "One Nine") is the ninth work for one performer, and 1O1 is a piece for an orchestra of 101 musicians."

Here's Five: 

It is only this year that I have started exploring the so-called "minimalistic" music of such 20th century music composers as John Cage, Arvo Pärt, and La Monte Young.

"Silence is the pause in me when I am near to God." - Arvo Pärt
Listen to this composition by Arvo Pärt, for example.

Though I should admit I have not reached the point where the music is stripped so bare that all that is left is the silence, as in John Cage's 4'33".

"I have nothing to say / and I am saying it / and that is poetry / as I needed it" --John Cage 

Ancient proverbs tell us that "Silence is Golden" and Rumi may have said that "Silence is the language of god, all else is poor translation.” but John Cage gives us a very different interpretation of silence in 4'33".

Let John Cage speak for himself.. ;-)

"In this music nothing takes place but sounds: those that are notated and those that are not.  Those that are not notated appear in the written music as silences, opening the doors of the music to the sounds that happen to be in the environment...... There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot." - John Cage, in his essay Experimental Music
But more than avoiding silence or filling space and time with sounds, sometimes one does crave silence for like the poet, Robert Penn Warren, wrote:
In silence the heart raves. It utters words Meaningless, that never had A meaning. - See more at:
In silence the heart raves. It utters words
Meaningless, that never had
A meaning.   
 Or like the poet, Mary Oliver, writes:
this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
And to put it more philosophically, these lines from Wallace Stevens' poem, Evening Without Angels, come to mind:
In silence the heart raves. It utters words Meaningless, that never had A meaning. - See more at:

Air is air.
Its vacancy glitters round us everywhere.
Its sounds are not angelic syllables
But our unfashioned spirits realized
More sharply in more furious selves.
                                         And light
That fosters seraphim and is to them
Coiffeur of haloes, fecund jeweller—
Was the sun concoct for angels or for men?
Sad men made angels of the sun, and of
The moon they made their own attendant ghosts,
Which led them back to angels, after death.
Let this be clear that we are men of sun
And men of day and never of pointed night,
Men that repeat antiquest sounds of air
In an accord of repetitions. Yet,
If we repeat, it is because the wind
Encircling us, speaks always with our speech.
Light, too, encrusts us making visible
The motions of the mind and giving form
To moodiest nothings, as, desire for day
Accomplished in the immensely flashing East,
Desire for rest, in that descending sea
Of dark, which in its very darkening
Is rest and silence spreading into sleep.
. . . Evening, when the measure skips a beat
And then another, one by one, and all
To a seething minor swiftly modulate.
Bare night is best. Bare earth is best. Bare, bare,
Except for our own houses, huddled low
Beneath the arches and their spangled air,
Beneath the rhapsodies of fire and fire,
Where the voice that is in us makes a true response,
Where the voice that is great within us rises up,
As we stand gazing at the rounded moon.

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