36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 222: Taking a chance


Vienna 1971—A Student Journal
A year of music, study, travel, sightseeing & friends.

Day 222 — Taking a chance
11-March-1972 (Samstag–Sat.)


John Cage Berlin 1972

Whole day in El. Musik. Didn’t get an exceptional amount done—but something. So it goes.

At night, started a new idea for another composition of SW and MW (short wave and medium wave) off of the radio. The only problem might be technical—weak batteries resulting in a too-slow recording. Use of a mic, not of the best quality.

However, the idea is an excellent one, and further work on it can be done in several directions. Chance music or not. The concept that I really enjoy about it is—it can be amazing and surprising (awareness) of what can come out of a radio.


Radioland. Today’s post surprised me and is an example of not remembering what I was thinking about back then. It’s partly an out-of-context issue. If I could hear what I was listening to on the radio in 1972, then I might be able to guess why I seemed excited by a new idea, a new project. As it is, I have no idea. My guess is that I was listening to a short-wave radio, trying to record off of it with a cheap tape recorder and microphone, and suddenly off to a realization of a new idea.

John Cage 1956
Taking a chance on Cage. It sounds like an avant-garde concept—I record “chance” recordings from the radio emanating from around Europe or the world and then turn it into a contemporary music composition. I have already mentioned the avant-garde influences of these days. One of those great influences was John Cage, and his implementation of “chance” (aleatoric) music. Anything happening at a particular time and in a particular environment could be considered a musical composition. In fact, the word “happenings” was sometimes used to describe live avant-garde musical, multimedia, and theatrical events that involved chance elements. As I have already mentioned, later in the year, I see one of John Cage’s monumental “happenings” in Berlin. Stay tuned. The photo left is of John Cage in 1956 (Wikimedia Commons). The opening photo is of John Cage (sitting on floor) and colleague at Cage’s 1972 music event. Below is another photo from the Berlin event—people walking up to a hanging instrument (found sounds) and playing. What comes out and when it comes out are random, chance events.

Chance music via Cage in Berlin 1972.

Cage’s use of sound, the prepared piano, and, notoriously, “silence,” was well known. In college, I had purchased some of Cage’s writings and followed and listened to a good deal of his and other composers’ experimental and contemporary music. It was a genre in which I was interested.

I would love to figure out the specifics of my thoughts in that last paragraph of today’s entry. What was I thinking, that could take radio excerpts and make it an “excellent” idea that could go in many directions? I just don’t know. It’s interesting to wonder.

I don’t believe that I ever followed through on this idea. I suspect that today, I am a bit more conservative. Who knows, one day maybe I’ll take a chance.


John Cage on Wikipedia

Chance music


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