On Cage and Text

Reading John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing” has made me think about constructing texts much as one would construct as a score. That is, it can be divided into sections, parts and units. That elements such as repetition can be used to structure the text. That pauses, breaths and so on – the silences that are part of a spoken text – can be interwoven into its structure and accentuated. I quite liked the way that Cage uses spatial layout and punctuation within his score (or script if you will).

This may be pointing out the obvious but really I hadn’t thought about it for an extended moment. In regards to my own texts for performances I always thought that I would leave the articulation open to the individual performer. Yet a written text does not come to the performer as a neutral thing where they will interpret it with a freshness. Rather the performer will read a written text as just that – a written text, with all the conventions we have been taught from the moment we first began to read. Cage’s use of physical space and ‘floating’ punctuation across the page disrupts our familiarity of standards texts. It slows you down when reading. It makes you actually pause and stop mid sentence and then continue.

All of which is very interesting. And I thought, as it was suggested to me last week, I’d have a go at generating my own scores/scripts/texts for my performances using some of these strategies.


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