corner: n. 1. a. The position at which two lines
or surfaces meet. b. The immediate interior or exterior or exterior
region of the angle formed at this position, bounded by the two
lines or surfaces. 2. A vertex, esp. the interior region of a
vertex, formed by the sides of roads or streets that join, meet,
or intersect. 3. A threatening or embarrassing position, esp.
one from which escape is difficult or impossible. 4.a. A part,
quarter or region. b. A remote, secluded, or secret place. 5.
A guard or decoration fitted on a corner, as of a bookbinding.
6. A speculative monopoly of a stock or commodity created by
purchasing all or most of the available supply in order to raise
(The American Heritage Dictionary)
Corner continues to be a site where one may encounter
many different voices, a forum where different kinds of codes
are received and celebrated. It is a space for the artist and
for the scholar, a journal in movement offering ideas and creativity
to an open netlinked community of readers. But as was Apollinaire's
Croniamental, the editor of these pages felt like a "pilgrim
of perdition" or "lost editor" when issue 3 of
Corner was not ready for the Fall 1999. But dates are
really "arbitrary landmarks, and the world does not alter
suddenly because a new number appears on the calendar."
 So we are extending Fall into the Spring of 2000 and making
this issue an in crescendo double issue (meaning we will
add more collaborations related to its theme), hoping for more
contributors who will begin to see electronic publications as
a new expression of our epoch and not as a destroyer of the marvelous
Leading towards the debunking of intellectual borders, this issue,
"John Cage and the Avant-Garde: the U.S. and Catalonia"
offers a plurality of approaches to a key figure in the twentieth
century international avant-garde and one of the most important
bridges of Zen thought to the Western world.  Cage regarded
music "not as a communication from the artist to an audience,
but rather as an activity of sounds in which the artist found
a way to let sounds be themselves." [3 ] For Cage, this
approach allowed for "open[ing] the minds of the people
who made them or listened to them for other possibilities than
they had previously considered...To widen their experience: particularly
to undermine the making of value-judgements."
David W. Bernstein's "John Cage and the `Project of Modernity':
A Transformation of the Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde" examines
Cage's crucial role in the revival of avant-garde aesthetics
in the post-war era. His essay is the scholarly platform for
Corner 3 which opens a path for a series of different creative
approaches to Cage's ideas and influences, as well as other related
Making a connection with Cage's role in music, Lotte Mac Cathmhaoil
sent us "9 Cage's Thoughts/9 Pensamientos de Cage."
While some of them are like arrows directed to the decentering
of the center or to a multiplicity of centers, others are like
koans or Zen style questions which awakenen the mind to surprise,
laughter, and the ultimate reality. The Spanish translations
add to the activity of sounds.
Xavier Canals' "Cage: tan lejano y tan cercano" is
a short, but engaging text of how Cage became and continues to
be a distant, but familiar figure to many artists. Canals' piece
pays homage to Cage's student, the recently deceased Dick Higgins,
an important figure for the Catalan visual poets. The text comments
on the poor reception that the Fluxus artist still receives in
Canals notes historical references related to aleatoric music
in Spain, and cites Cage as a key reference and influence in
order to be able to progress creatively in any direction. He
remembers meeting Cage eighteen years ago at a concert in Cadaqués,
an event which provoked the fury of many members of the audience
who abandoned the baroque church where it was taking place. He
also acknowledges Cage's pioneering role in preparing the piano
and how he was fascinated with the unheard sounds his ears were
experiencing. In "Cage so far away and so close," Canals
laments that one of the few points of disagreement he had with
Joan Brossa was his appreciation of Cage's music. For Brossa,
the American composer was naive, a curious observation considering
how we can find many common links between Brossa and Cage.
As a member of the Editorial Board of Corner, Canals interviewed
people in the streets of Barcelona asking about John Cage, but
not many were familiar with the composer's name. Among those
bold enough to answer him were: Antoni Clapés, Carles
Hac Mor and Benet Rossell. But before we talk about their answers,
we would like to mention that Canals won high scores in this
game interviewing Esther Ferrer, member of the renowned Spanish
avant-garde group Zaj, formed by Juan Hidalgo and Walter Marchetti.
As did Hidalgo, she studied under Cage and participated in many
action-concerts. Ferrer continues to play a fundamental role
spreading his ideas. It is interesting to note that during the
1960s, Fluxus' influence in Spain, particularly in Catalonia,
was very powerful.
The Canals/Ferrer interview took place after Ferrer's performance
in the alternative well-known Metrònom of Barcelona in
October of 1999. I would like to give the readers a version in
English of their dialogue:
XC: When did you meet John Cage for the first time with?
EF: The group Zaj offered a concert in Pamplona in 1972, and
the next year Cage organized a cycle of actions for this group
in the U.S. One of them took place at Mills College, and a couple
at the Merce Cunningham's studio. For Cage: "Zaj was more
NOH than NOH itself (NOH, the Japanese Theater)."
XC: Maybe the most interesting thing would be to talk about CAGE
TODAY, what makes him so relevant. The importance in not setting
EF: Yes. The most important thing about Cage is that he taught
us how to listen. We can summarize his teachings by saying: "HE
MADE OUR EARS BIGGER."
XC: Yes. I remember with emotion one of your essays where you
talk about Cage's innovations ("El taller estudio de John
Cage") . You wrote that he made us appreciate the ambient
sounds that surround us.
EF: Yes, Cage followed the teachings of Henry David Thoreau,
an extraordinary American philosopher, who wrote: "Music
is love" and "All sound is nearly akin to silence,
it is a bubble on her surface" and "THERE IS NO CENTER".
(...) Recently I went with my husband to a Congress of Music
in Vienna. There I found a very contemporary musician, with a
very subtle music, similar to the ambient sounds. His name is
Sciarino. Well, I believe I was able to appreciate his music
thanks to Cage's teachings. Yes, Cage's great revelation was
"NOT TO SET LIMITS"-- non-obstruction.
In order to know more about Ferrer's ideas, I would like to refer
readers to the link placed in this interview to Andrew Culver's
wonderful "Anarchic Harmony" website. There they will
find a letter from Ferrer to Cage dated 1991, where she responds
to Cage's question: does anarchy have a future?
Continuing with the answers to Canals' query about Cage's importance
these days, we have Antoni Clapés's "Ryoan-ji,"
a poem "no sound" / "no movement"/ "only
the falling dew the moss encroaching upon the white sand"
/ "this music." Clapés, a lover of silences
and spaces, beautifully appreciated Cage's drawings of the Ryoanji
Gardens in Kyoto and his use of the I-Ching.
From the serenity of Clapés' poem we enter the piece-essay
"Per a un concert sempre incomençat..." by Carles
Hac Mor. This "For a concert that never begins..."
written in capital letters, gives us the impression of a visual
poem when it is in reality an experimental philosophical approach
to Cage and the world of noises which surrounds us. We can say
"Here Comes Everybody" when Clapés and Canals
enter the scene again, followed by Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Beuys
and, of course, Cage with sounds and silences under all kind
of eyes and ears. Hac Mor, without any doubt, one of the most
interesting manipulators of the Catalan language, seems to battle
against the overvaluation of art and artists, proposing an exit
from categories, and simply provoking an entire range of responses.
Benet Rossell's "MUSICIRCUS" and "I am a catalan"
shows once more, as we saw in Corner 1, how he cultivates
a very unusual art, not only in painting, but also in writing,
making it difficult to classify his work. Painter, poet-philosopher,
film maker and playwright, Rossell likes to combine media and
bring them together. In "MUSICIRCUS," Rossell, one
of the Catalan artists who chose to begin his career in the more
open climate of Paris in the late 1960s, tells us about his participation
in the Concert-Performance which took place in Les Halle of Paris
on October 27, 1970. He mentions how in that macro-spectacle,
everybody had a place: musicians, acrobats, belly dancers, painters
et al., and how they all expressed their art with freedom. Benet
tells us how he organized an exhibition of micro-drawings inside
the right pocket of his vest. His performance consisted of moving
his original drawings from the right to the left pocket of his
vest, an action which he repeated over and over again.
Museum of oneself or oneself as Museum? John Cage visited all
the spaces of his MUSICIRCUS, he was interested in all the performances,
and he also stopped in front of Rossell, while calmly smoking
and observed the artists's performance. Rossell's second contribution
to this Corner is the play touched by the Absurd Theatre "I
am a catalan," dedicated to Cage. We find one scene covered
with roots, bones, junk, rubbish of tools. The characters are
the EYE, the LOCK, the EAR, and the DONKEY, and PECULIAR. We
witness how the EYE steals the hole of the lock and how the EAR
becomes aware of certain sounds.
Esther Xargay's "John Cage, Anarquísticament"
is also about the exploration of sounds and the breaking with
boundaries. Xargay tries to solve many puzzles related to the
spirit of music. She enters into a non-traditional discussion
of ideas ranging from the importance of silence and the sound
around us as music to the dangers of the being as a static entity;
an entity which consumes music, rather than becoming an activist
for the "establishment of NonSense."
Antonia de Pons, with the collaboration and authorization of
Xavier Canals selected eighteen visual poems related to music
by Catalan artists. The selection entitled "Música-Poesía
Visual: Del siglo XI a Cage" is accompanied by some reflections
about music-visual poetry and reproduces in Spanish some fragments
of Canals' essay "Musica-Poesia Visual, Intersecció
o Intercomunicació?" This essay was published some
years ago in Catalan and discusses Cage's ideas about silence
and sounds taking us on a journey through the origins of visual
Stephen Ratcliffe's "Reading (Cage) Silence"
is a triptych consisting of a series of meditations about I.
"Lecture on Nothing"; II. "Composition as Process"
Changes/Indeterminacy/Communication; III. "Lecture on Something."
The author shows his extraordinary language skills, constructing
several possible pathways through Cage's work.
Alvin Curran with his "Music I have heard 1982/1998"
pays homage to Cage with a list of composers, compositions, places,
and sounds (in no particular order) which have remained an integral
part of him. Curran, one of the most original of the American
experimentalist composers in the twentieth century, is a sure
link to Cage and his legacy.
Corner's Avant-Garde Reader offers a selection of mini reviews
of books published in the 1990s which we consider essential reading
for any avant-garde lover. With this addition to our journal,
we begin a section dedicated to book reviews. In addition to
providing a scanned image of the book jacket, we present summaries
of selected reviews. We have also included a brief bibliography
related to Cage and the Avant-Garde, compiled by David W. Bernstein.
I would like to leave this Corner with a personal note that can
be considered my homage to John Cage. My first encounter with
John Cage took place in 1978 when reading a letter he wrote to
the Cuban composer Alejandro García Caturla. Dated March
15, 1939, the letter asked Canturla to send Cage one of his scores
and to lend him some Cuban instruments for a concert to be performed
to "a sensitive audience of around 400."  But
my real discovery of John Cage took place years later, in 1991,
in Zürich. Invited by Count Von Sägesser, an admirer
of Cage's works, I participated in the Junifestwochen of Zürich,
an homage to James Joyce/John Cage. Even though Cage was a name
I knew before, this was the first time I was introduced to all
the possibilities that Cage brought with him. Seeing Europeras
1 & 2 at the Operahaus Zürich was an unforgettable
experience, as was viewing John Cage. Partituren, Graphik,
Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, an exhibition at the Kunsthaus of
Cage scores, notes, drawings and watercolors. To these two unforgettable
experiences I would like to add: a program of voices with Tom
Stoppard's Travesties, the Lesung in englischer Sparche by David
Roscoe, the lectures "Leiter der Zürcher James Joyce
Stiftung, spricht zu und um James Joyce" by Fritz Senn,
and John Cage's "The Wonderful Window of Eighteen Springs
(James Joyce)." The following year and thanks to Alvin Curran,
I was led to chance music and began to familiarize myself more
with the American experimentalist tradition, with electronic
music, prepared pianos, chance, aleatoric music, and all kinds
And as in our former editorials, I need to thank Servando González,
the Webmaster of Corner for his design and Renée
Jadushlever for her editorial assistance.
 Anna Balakian, "Apollinaire and l'Esprit Nouveau."
In Surrealism, The Road to the Absolute. Dutton, 1970.
 Dada influenced Cage's thoughts. He made a connection between
Dada and Zen, "but neither Dada nor Zen is a fixed tangible.
They change; and in quite different ways in different places
and times, they invigorate action." (John Cage, Silence.
Wesleyan University Press, 1961. xi). George Brecht points out
in his "Lecture on Dada," how as early as 1922, Tristan
Tzara already recognized the relationship of chance poetry and
in the role of the artist as a facilitator to Zen: "Dada
is not at all modern. It is more in the nature of a return to
an almost Buddhist religion of indifference." In Chance
Imagery, A Great Bear Pamphlet. New York: Something
Else Press, 1964, 3.
 In Richard Kostelanetz. The Theater of Mixed Means.
New York: The Dial Press, 1968, quoted in David T. Doris, "Zen
Vaudeville: A Medi(t)ation in the Margins of Fluxus." In
Ken Friedman, ed. The Fluxus Reader. Academy Editions,
 In Rick Fields, How the Swans Came to the Lake, 196.
Quoted in Doris, "Zen Vaudeville," 96.
 Published in Alejandro García Caturla: Correspondencia.
Ed. Arte y Literatura, 1978. 379-380.
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