John Cage Performs Water Walk on “I’ve Got a Secret” (1960)

In 1952, John Cage com­posed his most con­tro­ver­sial piece, 4′33,″ a four-and-a-half minute reflec­tion on the sound of silence. Now fast for­ward eight years. It’s Feb­ru­ary, 1960, and we find the com­pos­er teach­ing his famous Exper­i­men­tal Com­po­si­tion cours­es at The New School in NYC, and pay­ing a vis­it to the CBS game show “I’ve Got a Secret.” The TV show offered Cage some­thing of a teach­able moment, a chance to intro­duce the broad­er pub­lic to his brand of avant-garde music. Cage’s piece is called Water Walk (1959), and it’s all per­formed with uncon­ven­tion­al instru­ments, save a grand piano. A water pitch­er, iron pipe, goose call, bath­tub, rub­ber duck­ie, and five unplugged radios — they all make the music. And the audi­ence does­n’t quite know how to react, except with ner­vous laugh­ter. It was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly cour­te­ous. But, as one schol­ar has not­ed, it’s equal­ly remark­able that prime time TV gave ten min­utes of unin­ter­rupt­ed air­time to avant-garde music. You take the good with the bad.

via Bib­liok­lept/WFMU

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Comments (4)
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  • durkART says:

    Won­der­ful and inspiring.…Something to think about, how we view music.

  • Janet says:

    So Much Fun! It’s inter­est­ing — if you close your eyes you hear how good it actu­al­ly is. Before they start laugh­ing, that is. But great fun to watch too. Love the con­flict with the union, lol. Bra­vo!

  • Paul says:

    Per­haps Dan can advise how the audi­ence then and per­haps now should react when first hear­ing this on a tv quiz show?

    It does­n’t seem dis­cour­te­ous for the audi­ence to laugh, but I’ll await Dan’s advice on this point of eti­quette.

    John Cage seems to be enjoy­ing the moment too and it reminds me of Simon Rat­tle and Mr Bean recent­ly mix­ing the world of music and enter­tain­ment in good faith

  • Brian Nelson says:

    The stage­hands union would not let Cage play the radios on the tables, hence he knocked them over!

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