31 August 2006

Indeterminacy . 177

I don’t dispute Andy’s contention that Cage’s vispo lacks the phenomenological attentiveness of things to come, but it’s still one of my favorite American road trip poems.


andy gricevich said...

Yup, that's damn good. Virgil Thomson--what a wit.

david raphael israel said...

really glad you linked to this -- I was unaware of the collection being available, and for that matter hadn't seen it in print either (though the style of story seems akin to other things heard from Cage on occasion); the collection is wonderful. I've now alredy ripped off the blog-a-Cage-story idea once, and am apt to do so some more perhaps.)

But it's not clear to me that it's these stories that Andy had in mind vis-a-vis vispo a la Cage. The background notes about Indetermincy make clear the spacing on the page was conceived as in the manner of a musical score. Each story was to be read over the span of 60 seconds. One page equals 60 seconds. If there are more words, they're denser; if there are fewer words, they're spaced apart more. That's not to say there's not perhaps some artful or mildly expressive aspect to the specifics of spacing; but seemingly, it was "utilitarian" in inspiration: a way of allowing the writer/reader to perform the work in a desired fashion.

It has a neat effect, certainly so in web presentation, anyway. But the tales themselves are almost incomparably laconic. I would unhesitatingly call it a singular classic of 20th Century American literature. It could even be placed at the other end of the shelf with Gertrude Stein's The Making of Americans (written 1906-1908, published 1925, says the Wikipedia) -- the Cage work terse, the Stein work most prolix, both exemplifying (in differing ways) the juncture between American English and what (for lack of any more particular word) we can call Buddhism. (The repetitive-trance-style of Stein's magnum opus anyway has seemed to me reminiscent in form and effect to that of repetitive Mahayana classics such as are found in the Perfection of Wisdom [Prajnaparamita] literature.)

Ian Keenan said...

I agree this is a singular classic, and I’m apt to do some more blog-a-Cage too.

How Cage depicts time and rhythm in a poem is a part of the ground he broke, but to say that a poem has a natural duration, to suit a lecture or a Merce dance, is to deny its simultaneous life as a poem on paper to be read repeatedly, which is a visual experience. The mesostic Roaratorio is an example of a work that is designed to be both heard and seen as vispo, since it incorporates a studio composition of found sounds mixed with a studio reading and the name-homage is directly seen in the visual reading. The method of the ‘heard’ work relates to a phenomenon which is ‘seen’: the mesostic of ‘James Joyce.’

Max and Peggy’s US road trips are some of my favorites, too; their itineraries in the SW should always be consulted. I’ll check out the Prajnaparamita, thanks.

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