Friday, September 18, 2009

John Cage (Unplugged)

Nowadays, when a musician's performance is characterized as "unplugged" it means that the normally electric instruments are not used, just "acoustic" ones. In this historic footage from 1960(!), avant garde composer John Cage is featured on the TV show "I've Got A Secret." Network television (when there were only three networks.) Prime time (when Prime Time actually was prime time.)

Figuring, I suppose, that the game of guessing his secret would be too difficult and, as host Gary Moore explained, to allow for sufficient time for the complete performance to take place, the game portion of the event was eliminated and Cage's secret was just announced. He would perform his composition Water Walk using: a water pitcher, an iron pipe, a goose call, a bottle of wine, an electric mixer, a whistle, a sprinkling can, ice cubes, 2 cymbals, a mechanical fish, a quail call, a rubber duck, a tape recorder, a vase of roses, a seltzer siphon, 5 radios, a bathtub, and a grand piano.

I suppose guessing the secret probably would have been a little on the difficult side.

There was, however, a glitch in the system. Two different unions were contesting which should plug in the radios. There was no resolution so the radios were to be unplugged for the performance. Cage explained his workaround before beginning the performance and the radios were not played although they were still used.

I haven't figured out yet why the other electrical gadgets (tape recorder and mixer) did not enter into the dispute. Maybe the sticking point had something to do with music or actors being broadcast over the airwaves.

Enjoy! Oh, yes, TV was mostly in black and white back then.

Originally from: WFMU's Beware of the Blog — A Radio Station That Bites Back

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