Robert Scott Thompson on John Cage
Folio 1 IMAGINAL for JC in 433 (2011) mp3
Three for JC (2008) mp3
a. Homage (Dear John…)
b. Acoustic Food for Man
c. The Roaring Silence
Filigree and Shadow (score - pdf)
Actions for One (graphic score + pdf)
Biography + contact
Penetrating Influence ~ Recalling John upon the Hill with Apples + Hexagram No. 75
Sitting on the hillock behind Mandeville Center at the University of California San Diego in the spring of 1986 (during the Pacific Ring Festival), John and I chatted about the changeable, the fluidic, and the ephemeral, as we gazed at the clouds shifting serenely over the La Jolla bluffs and the blue Pacific.
His influence upon me, and everyone at UCSD, was deep, life-long-lasting, and “penetrating” – informing not only our aesthetics but also in some cases, such as my own, more technical concerns, and as if by osmosis, all the while expressing infectious laughter, kind humor, and grace in fielding the innocent questions of us budding avant-garde composers.
I was already a student of the I-Ching, and of Suzuki, and passionate about Satie - there was some kind of bond there perhaps, growing out of these shared affinities.
As a composer of contemporary music, I have been influenced not only by John’s gift of freedom to engage all sound as music – a concept central to my work in acousmatic music - but also by a shared reverence for these various inspirations – the music of Satie, the philosophy of Suzuki, chance and laughter to name a few of countless.
John’s close relationships with Janos Négyesy (who premièred the Freeman Etudes), Ed and Bonnie Harkins, Roger Reynolds, Joji Yuasa and many others among our mentors opened the door to interactions that have become iconic memories and treasured, if all too brief, moments.
Over the years since those illuminant days, I have composed a number of works either as homage to John or directly responding to my memories of him during that time. I am richer for the casual conversation, the evening concert, and the joy of interaction he exuded with everyone. A humanist and philosopher who just happened to love music (sound) as much as the people he was in contact with, and each at any moment.
Chance operations, indeterminacy, graphic scores, the importance of planning for the unplanned, found sounds, environment, silence, collage, and on and on – too much to name, too precious to describe, dwell at the base of my own methods for composing – did John invent these or did he invite my own private discovery? The first work of his that I fell in love with was Forever and Sunsmell, which I heard on Obscure 5 – Voices and Instruments Jan Steele and John Cage, produced by Eno in 1976. Little did I know that ten years later I would be sitting on the hill with John talking about obscurations by clouds while eating apples.
Hexagram No. 75 Sun / The Gentle (The Penetrating, Wind)
THE GENTLE. Success through what is small. It furthers one to have somewhere to go. It furthers one to see the great man.
Winds following one upon the other: The image of THE GENTLY PENETRATING. Thus the superior man Spreads his commands abroad And carries out his undertakings.
Robert Scott Thompson is a composer of instrumental and electroacoustic music and is Professor of Music Composition at Georgia State University in Atlanta. He is the recipient of several prizes and distinctions for his music including the First Prize in the 2003 Musica Nova Competition, the First Prize in the 2001 Pierre Schaeffer Competition and awards in the Concorso Internazionale "Luigi Russolo", Irino Prize Foundation Competition for Chamber Music, and Concours International de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges - including the Commande Commission 2007. His work has been presented in festivals such as the Koriyama Bienalle, Sound, Presences, Synthese, Sonorities, ICMC, SEAMUS and the Cabrillo Music Festival, and broadcast on Radio France, BBC, NHK, ABC, WDR, and NPR. His music is published on recordings by EMF Media, Neuma, Drimala, Capstone, Hypnos, Oasis/Mirage, Groove, Lens, Space for Music, Zero Music, Twelfth Root, and Aucourant record labels, among others, and in print by Aucourant Media Productions.