Zen according to John – a parallel reading of Cage and Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki

July 1st-7th, 2012
Paper: Zen according to John – a parallel reading of Cage and Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki
Conference: 2012 – International Musicological Society Congress
Venue: Rome.
Scroll down to read or download: Abstract.

NB! The abstracts and papers are works-in-progress. Papers are meant to be read and may not always make sense without supporting sound/demonstration. Some papers/abstracts may contain my own personal notes for delivery. Also, the abstracts published here are the proposals sent to the conferences where the papers/presentations were later delivered. Abstracts and papers may therefore differ to the extent that they deal with different topics.

Zen according to John – a parallel reading of Cage and Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki – abstract

The role of Zen in John Cage’s practice has been thoroughly acknowledged but not properly understood. Due to a narrow view of what art music is (c.f. the CFP), researchers have tended to interpret Zen in a Western discursive practice that is remote from Cage’s practice. This paper claims that most of the pivotal aesthetic ideas that Cage had around the time 4’33’’ was written are direct and indirect quotes from the works of DaisetzTeitaro Suzuki. Cage wrote music and words in the language of a Zen world, sohis practice should subsequently be understood in that vein too.

Zen was not inspirational to Cage’s practice (Zen precedes the compositional practice), but Cage’s practice was Zen (neither entity was causing the other). To understand these thoughts the researcher must depart from scholarly, stringent, and dualist language and attempt to view reality through Cage and Suzuki’s non-dualist perspective (c.f. the CFP’s focus on taking different perspectives and identities). Understanding Cage from a perspective of causality will lead to misunderstandings. Through the proposed method of reading Cage, we will attain a better understanding of how the semantics of what Cage said were often irrelevant. He demonstrated his aesthetic ideas through the structure of what he said (c.f. Part 4 of “Lecture on Nothing”). Transferring our perspective from causality to the Zen moment we arrive at a new understanding of Cage, and gain new tools to use Cage’s music in a meditation-like practice.

Keywords: John Cage, Zen, non-dualism, methodology