Dazzling innovation in a work by one of America's most important and controversial composers.
"In the nature of the use of chance operations is the belief that all answers answer all questions," John Cage writes in this edition of his contribution to Harvard's prestigious Norton Lecture Series in 1988-89. More like performances than lectures, these six mesostics -- a complex horizontal arrangement of text to form vertical letter sequences that spell out key words -- illustrated for his audience the concept of "nonintention," a kind of meticulously choreographed anarchy in which choice and chance join to redefine the concepts of meaning and meaningfulness.
Drawing text from Thoreau, Wittgenstein, Joyce, McCluhan, and daily newspapers, Cage used a computer program to combine seemingly disparate lines into a whole that explored fifteen central aspects of his compositional credo. This edition includes the mesostics, transcriptions, and a CD recording of the question-and-answer sessions that followed and of Cage reading in a sonorous baritone that infuses the mesostic with life, depth, and musicality. The aesthetic integrity and artistic growth that have characterized Cage's half century of production are nowhere more clearly evident than in this tour de force. [via]