36 Years Ago

36 Years Ago, Vienna 1971—A Student Journal

Day 344: John Cage, avant-garde festival


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

Day 344 — John Cage, avant-garde festival
11-Jul-1972 (Tue.)


Avant-garde music festival at the Akadamie der Kunste
Avant-garde music festival at the Akadamie der Kunste


Spending money like crazy. Don’t know how to stop it. But I better find a way. Today, spent mostly sightseeing.

Berlin is a modern, clean, busy, and fast moving town. Once the aggravation of settling down is past and you know your way around, then things are seen in a better light.

I like the city.

Took a long walk towards the Academy of Art, where the festival will take place. (The city is big and the walks are long.)

Climbed the monument in the Tiergarten. Tired. Tiergarten—a very large area of wooded-area-type parks. Very natural. Sort of a nice idea.

Bought tickets for most of the festival.

Zoological Garden. A really fantastic zoo. A large, park zoo with many animals, and laid out imaginatively. Sort of modern. And kept very well. Clean. Even the animals seem happy. For an inhumane type of institution (I feel sorry for the animals), this one at least seems more humane.

First concert

John cage and David Tudor—“An Event”

I like the concepts behind Cage’s ideas (everything/chance is music), but I don’t like the results.

Got here late. Bunch of kids crashed the gate and so I sat on the floor.

The work, “An Event,” is based on chance operations involving”mu(sic) and (thor)eau” ideas. Text written by Cage. Involves voice chanting with chance electronic background (from previous works).

Result: “chance” makes it theoretically different but it sounds all the same. The “chance” element does not provide enough “perceptual” variation for the listener.

Audience involvement: Being that it was John Cage, some of the audience felt that they should become stimulated enough to become involved in the music and thus participate.

Result: a group of people making random, stupid sounds but without any connection to the music. Again, theoretical participation, great. Actual result, crap. If he thought that it was good, he must be crazy. Afterwards, in casual talking, their ideas had good “theoretical” possibilities. In actuality though…

I didn’t like it. A disappointment.

Afterwards. Riverboat. A fantastic place to dance. A classy place. Fantastic band. Several rooms. Enough people for a slow night. Didn’t meet anyone, though. Hope to go again.


Ich bin ein Berliner. Ok, I’m not John Kennedy but I like Berlin a lot. After getting settled in and complaining about how fast the money goes, I do a bit of sightseeing.

Berlin photos. I have a lot of photos from Berlin (see below). The opening photo is of the Akadamie der Kunst (Academy of Art) where the avant-garde festival took place. Unfortunately, I lost my documentation of what each photo is but I will try to use Google, Flickr, (and Bing?), to attach names to the photos. If you see a mistake, send me an email.

Sightseeing. I have a lot of photos of West Berlin and will split them out over the week long visit here. Though, I think of Berlin as being a modern, New-York-style, contemporary city (minus the skyscrapers), the photos show a beautiful and varied city. Today, I see the Tiergarten, Zoological Garden, and Academy of Art—where the music festival is held.

Why did I go to Berlin? Why am I in Berlin?—I wanted to see a week-long avant-garde music festival primarily centered around the famous and sometimes-notorious composer, John Cage. That was the primary reason. Secondary was the history and importance of Berlin and the Berlin Wall to the cold war. Third—I heard Berlin was a hip and young city.

John Cage. I followed John Cage’s writings, books, and philosophies while at Montclair. Cage was perhaps an equal philosopher and writer as well as a composer. I was intrigued by his ideas that basically “everything” could be music, including the “prepared piano” and silence ( 4’33” ), and that “chance” (aleatoric) music was a viable genre. You can generally catalog Cage in the 20th-century avant-garde school of composition. Certainly, you’ve noticed my own personal interest in “sound” as music with my taking the sound of a breaking glass and turning into a programmatic and anecdotal piece, Fantasy on Broken Glass.

I found an interesting version of
4’33” on YouTube for orchestra that was televised over the BBC. (See below.)

First concert—“An Event.” I must have had my journal with me at the concert because I am writing some detailed notes on the concert. I bring up some of my traditional objections to avant-garde and electronic music—that it often sounds the same; and that there is not the traditional musical constructs—motives, rhythms, harmony, structure—to follow along. I can still appreciate interesting textures, atmospheres, moods, emotion, tension/non-tension and such in new music. Did I like it—I say no, but I’m certain I liked the concept and some of the music. I “do” remember walking around in the “space” and being fascinated by the variety of sounds and sound-space coming from all directions and the “environment” they created. What turned me off—the audience was basically goofing off, thus ruining my experience of the piece. If this piece were done in a university with interested students and composers, it would probably have been totally different.

In those days, an event like this was sometimes referred to as “a happening.”

Here are some links:

John Cage in Wikipedia

4’33” – the orchestral version on YouTube

Here are some Berlin art and music festival photos. Other Berlin photos will be spread out among my stay in Berlin.

Modern art in the Academy of Art
Modern art in the Academy of Art 01
Modern art in the Academy of Art 02
Chance improvisation at the music festival
Chance improvisation at the music festival
Another concert venue for the concert
Another concert venue for the concert
Performing Cage’s music onstage
Performing Cages music onstage


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