I’m currently reading Kay Larson’s fantastic Where the Heart Beats, which highlights the impact of Zen Buddhism on post-WWII classical music. The fact that Larson is a practicing Buddhist, in addition to a respected art critic, makes this book an especially unique compilation of biography and personal history. It’s structure often references John Cage’s posthumous “dialogues” with Erik Satie when she includes her own “conversations” with the composer.
I must admit I’m sucker for all things Cage. This past year, I read Kyle Gann’s No Such Thing as Silence which focuses on Cage’s (in)famous “silent piece,” as he often called it, and its far-reaching cultural influence. Gann’s monograph is a beautiful meditation on the philosophy of music, and one of the best books on art in general I’ve yet to read.
2012 was not the end of the world. But it was the centennial of Cage’s birth and the 60th anniversary of the premiere of 4’33”. Cage’s progressive ideas are still present in our musical lives, often as the butt of musical jokes, but, more importantly as way to truly listen instead of just hear. But don’t take my world for it.
What I do, I do not wish blamed on Zen, though without my engagements with Zen (attendance at lectures with Alan Watts and D. T. Suzuki, reading of the literature) I doubt whether I would have done what I have done.