I came across this lovely video clip via an article by Andy Field in the Guardian. It shows John Cage, a pioneer in experimental and chance music, performing an avant-garde composition on an American TV game show in the 1960s. Yes really! An avant-garde musical composition a TV game show.
I love the gentle good humour and graciousness with which John Cage delivers his work. (And now I’ve written that, it’s struck me that I think ‘graciousness’ might be word that I’ve heard more since I’ve been in the US). There’s a charming earnestness about him and I loved this line:
“Perfectly seriously, I consider music the production of sounds and since in the piece you will hear I produce sounds, I would call it music”
Could a similar performance have ever happened on a UK game show, I wonder? Would the content editor have deemed it too high brow, and hence unfitting? And if it had gone ahead, would it have required a more tongue in cheek approach and would John Cage have received the same amused, open-minded reception? And how lovely that he did, because he seems to have wound up going down a storm. Andy Field draws an interesting comparison with ‘Britain’s Got Talent’.
In Simon Cowell’s universe you’re either a future star, a lovable object of derision or an unlikely underdog about to undergo a heart-warming transformation; in each case, your treatment is predetermined by which pigeonhole you’re placed in.
Are we that blinkered? I hope not. Nevertheless, I do think the clip might illustrate something that relates to the different weightings placed on positive and negative politeness on each side of the pond. If you’re inclined to hesitate before you dismiss things, you probably have to accept more dross in your life. But maybe you also wind up coming across more new stuff that can enhance life as well? Any thoughts?
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