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

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • 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!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.