The Voice Uncaged

John CageI’ve been reading The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross’ history of music in the 20th Century. At one point he refers to a lecture John Cage gave in 1950 in which he quoted a woman from Texas who had told him “We have no music in Texas.” Cage’s comment was: “The reason they’ve no music in Texas is because they have recordings in Texas. Remove the records from Texas and someone will learn to sing.”

Of course Cage’s observation is now spectacularly dated. We long ago got used to records (which turned into CDs, which turned into iTunes and live streaming and podcasts and who knows what next year). But the assumed antithesis between technology and the human remains as vexed now as sixty years ago. More so, actually.

I love the provocative beau geste of Cage‘s comment. One person in all of Texas doing something as aboriginally human as singing being enough to counterbalance the sheer weight of industrialized art. Wow. Cheeky. But I guess provocation was what Cage was about.

It would be interesting (in the spirit of fun, or of seriousness, whichever you wish) to update Cage’s comment for 2013. I invite you to fill in the blanks:

The reason we don’t ________________ is because we have ______________. Remove _______________ and someone might __________________.

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