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.
Wonderful and inspiring….Something to think about, how we view music.
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!
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
The stagehands union would not let Cage play the radios on the tables, hence he knocked them over!