Cage, Art, Silence


Copy of cage

Several years ago I was introduced, by a dear friend, to John Cage’s book called: Visual Art:  To Sober and Quiet the Mind.  It is a beautiful book, a meditation on Art and Purpose.  “Art, says Cage, whether it is good or bad, has a way of changing how we see the world… (if seeing) Art transfers you to something ordinary (the way  Duchamp was able to do for Cage) then, it’s not as though it were a case of the “special,” but it enlarges the spiritual experience to include many, many things…

This is a beautiful way to look at what we do, and why we do what we do, when we create Art…whether that be visual art, sound art, performance art, or written art.  It is our desire to transform ourselves, as well as the observer – to make us think, feel, open, deepen, understand, bond, explore….all of these things, and more – but for Cage, Art’s primary function is to Sober and Quiet the Mind“encouraging a state that is spiritual in nature but at the same time is connected to the everyday.”  

Yes.  Spiritual, and yet connected to the Everyday.  This is magnetic for me – a statement that expresses the full scope of Art and it’s power, that moves into and through me, and that forever stays.

what silence looks like...
what silence looks like?…

Remember the way Cage explored, and informed his work, with Silence?  Click on the link to watch his 1952 performance of Silent.   Of course, Cage is not entirely unique in his expression of Silence in art – though conceptually, this performance did bring Silence front and center, into the spotlight, allowing the viewer to fully engage in the presence of silence that resides in art, and ask that they begin to question the very notion of whether silence truly exists.  A sheet of music void of notation, other than Rests, does not silence make.  But think of poetry – the empty space on the page, the break in between, called the Caesura…this too is the expansion of this silence – of allowing the viewer to reside in between – to insert their own understanding/experience/notion, of how this Silence informs the poem and deepens its presence both on the page, and in the mind, heart, and breath, of the reader.

Copy of john cage never be silence

For me, as a writer, an artist, and a musician – and as a lover of all of these! – the Silence that resides in art is what allows me to exist inside of it.  It opens room for me to enter – to mine deeply what the art has to offer for me at that moment.  But as Cage insisted, and to which I fully agree – Art that thrills me most, is that which encourages a state that is spiritual in nature, but at the same time is connected to the everyday.

How deep is my gratitude for all the artists (writers, painters, sculptures, dancers, film makers, musicians…good lord, etc, etc, etc…) who have splayed out, like a map of stars, what it means for them to create.  They are fuel for my spirit, and they catch in my heart as I set out on my own journey of creating.   Please do set out on your own journey as well – there is never such a thing as too late.  Not if you are breathing :)

Copy of cage bell


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