Posts Tagged ‘john cage


John Cage//Nietzsche//Techniques of Listening and Life

John Cage, from Silence

But this fearlessness only follows if, at the parting of the ways, where it is realized that sounds occur whether intended or not, one turns in the direction of those he does not intend. This turning is psychological and seems at Ilrst to be a giving up of everything that belongs to humanity-for a musician, the giving up of music. This psychological turning leads to the world of nature, where, gradually or suddenly, one sees that humanity and nature, not separate, are in this world together; that nothing was lost when everything was given away. In fact, everything is gained. In musical terms, any sounds may occur in any combination and in any continuity.

Is this not a certain technique for achieving what Nietzsche intended in the figure of the overman? It seems uncannily similar, and Cage’s arguable political naivete aside, it presents at least the glimmer of a course of aesthetic action (the positive suppression of positive intention) for the goal that Nietzsche, as I read him, set out.

If nothing else, silencing yourself for a bit makes for a good exercise.


“Wake up, Jake-ofs Lad!” Or reading, I


Joyce’s mode of punning is synthetic– proceeding by the concretion of words within words based on the basic logic of homophony.  

The puns proceed like imagistic-collages.  Think John Cage’s “Imaginary Landscapes” of tape-collage.  When I read, I try to create unfolding fields of meaning, imagistically, among other ways of feeling one’s way through the text.  It’s not unlike experimenting with cognitive dissonance, a la Duchamp’s “Anemic Cinema.”  

So, for example, a found-image interpretation of an early sentence from FW.  


“Sir Tristram, violer d’amores,” 



Making collages like this is a fun way to proceed.  If you so choose, read a few pages, find a juicy pun, hemorrhaging with meanings, like a palmofgranite, and make a field for it (sound collages are also a possibility–or computer programming or flow-proofs in non-euclidean geometry).  If a method like this isn’t too constricting.


“oranges have been laid to rust”


So, bearing in mind that “the best and most valuable way to read Finnegan’s Wake–perhaps the only way–is in a group, collectively,” I venture to suggest the first Ghost Island reading group.  


On but the first page–reading like a case-study of the persistent link(leak)age of anality and the mouth, or anality and omnipotence, like Judge Schreber impregnated by God’s “arclight”– Joyce waxes lyrically about vaginas, rainbows, anal sex and that stigmata of the modernist hero (Picasso) syphilis, among other luminous and indecipherable nursery rhymes, puns and miscellany.  As “Sir Tristram” “violer d’amores” searches for “Iseut,” re: Iseult, or anagrammatically a slut.  


“Rot a peck of pa’s malt had Jhem or Shen brewed by arclight and rory end to the regginbrow was to be seen ringsome on the aquaface.”   


We could do it on the site, though if commentary becomes voluminous enough, another independent platform could be in order.  


Joyce never lived through the Second World War.  Ezra Pound broke with Joyce over the work.  John Cage wrote his beautiful “Roaratorio” after years of meditation on and with the text.  Hollis Frampton never ceased citing it in the schema for his uncompleted final film “Magellan.” I think there may be interesting discoveries to be made in it about both social and aesthetic promises left unfulfilled–I’ll post more in the future.  Specifically about an incredible meeting between Joyce and Eisenstein, regarding the infinite “image-machine” of film.  


I eagerly await.

July 2020