Wednesday, February 23, 2011

John Cage performing on 'I've got A Secret'

The links I have provided below is a video and a blog post about John Cage performing an experimental composition piece titled, Water Walk on the CBS panel game show, "I've Got A Secret" in 1960. The show consists of a guest and a celebrity panel trying to guess what the guests' secret is, whether it be unusual, amazing, embarrassing, or humorous. The studio audience and the viewers at home are informed about the guest's secret via text on screen, but for Cage's secret, it was told that he was going to perform one of his musical compositions, later on listing the "instruments" he will be using are:

A water pitcher, an iron pipe, a goose call, a bottle of wine, an electric mixer, a whistle, a sprinkling can, ice cubes, 2 cymbals, a mechanical fish, a quail call, a rubber duck, a tape recorder, a vase of roses, a seltzer siphon, 5 radios, a bathtub, and a grand piano.

Unfortunately, he couldn't use the radios in which he originally intended due to two unions disputing over who would plug in the radios. Instead, he consented to smack the radios on the top as a sign of turning them on and pushing them off the table as a way of turning them off.

As you watch the video at around five minutes, Cage prepares for his performance and the host tells the viewer that Cage has a stopwatch, giving Cage the precise time to sequence the sound of the objects at the right time, making in no way to be accidental.

I find it interesting that considering the "instruments" he uses in this performance, they are pretty much everyday objects you can find in a domestic home and could almost be said that any object that makes a sound can have music quality to it. Cage still uses the technique of having the items make the sounds he wants in an composed order, almost like making music and putting the notes onto a musical sheet. To the listener, the performance sounds ludicrous, if you listen to the audience laughing during the performance.

Although Cage's performance here seemed non-traditional, in a sense, if actual musical instruments were to be played with the same form of organization he used, it would have almost sounded less ludicrous and be taken more seriously. It challenges the listener to think about how everyday objects can be "musical" at all, rather than the standard way of thinking a violin, for example is defined as a musical instrument.

John Cage performs Water Walk

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