John Cage Journeys in Sound
‘I think our aim should be to have more and more access to the enjoyment of life,’ says John Cage in this lucid and eminently watchable DVD which is packed with people and history and some wonderful performances of Cage’s music.
It begins with hilarious archive footage of Cage performing on an American TV show in 1960 and this is quickly followed by a recent performance of Cage’s Water Music by the pianist Steffen Schleiermacher. We see him setting up for the concert, carrying an old zinc bath on his head. Duck-calls, whistles, a radio and other objects and props are assembled around the piano. During the performance the audience takes this humorous piece very seriously. Later, Schleiermacher is preparing a piano for the Sonatas and Interludes. The camera zooms right onto the strings so that we see how it’s done.
We meet people who knew Cage well and worked with him closely. The composer Christian Wolff takes us up to Stony Point, in New York state, where Cage lived in the 1940s. There’s some lovely footage of Cage collecting mushrooms there. Yoko Ono and John Lennon converse with Cage in a New York café. The violinist Irvine Arditti performs the fiendish Freeman Etude XVII having explained the difficulties involved. And in some of the bonus material David Tudor performs and then discusses 4'33". Invaluable, considering that he gave the premiere in 1952. This DVD certainly contributes to the enjoyment of life… and to the enjoyment of John Cage.