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Coders are now habitat providers for the rest of the world.” ~ Vitorino Ramos, via Twitter, July, 17, 2012 (link).

Video lecture – Casey Reas ( at Eyeo2012 (uploaded 2 days ago on Vimeo): From a visual and conceptual point of view, the tension between order and chaos is a fertile space to explore. For over one hundred years, visual artists have focused on both in isolation and in tandem. As artists started to use software in the 1960s, the nature of this exploration expanded. This presentation features a series of revealing examples, historical research into the topic as developed for Reas‘ upcoming co-authored book “10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10″ (MIT Press, 2012, book link; cover above), and a selection of Casey‘s artwork that relies on the relationship between chance operations and strict rules.


(…) The Four Mists of Chaos, the North, the East, the West, and the South, went to visit Chaos himself. He treated them all very kindly and when they were thinking of leaving, they consulted among themselves how they might repay his hospitality. Since they had noticed that he had no holes in his body, as they each had (eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc.), they decided each day to provide him with an opening. At the end of seven days, Kwang-tse tells us, Chaos died. (…)  in Indeterminacy – Ninety Stories by John Cage (Transcript of story number 27), With Music, ca. 26’00” to 27’00”, From John Cage’s [1958] Lecture ‘Indeterminacy’, 26’00” to 27’00”, in Die Reihe No. 5, English edition on p.120.

… fortunately for all of us.

The three stages of response to a new idea: 1. Ridicule 2. Outrage 3. Declaration that it’s obvious” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer.

[…] However, Cage himself never softened. The culture might have moved on, but he kept on his radical edge, continuing his revolution in a quiet way for those who cared not only to listen, but to act on and live by his words. Through the 1980’s, Cage’s influence was felt in the underground, influencing many of the more interesting cultural movements of that decade–the birth of indy rock, the renewal of Conceptual Art, and the rise of Language Poetry. Many of these artists studied Cage in the ’60s and ’70s and went on to synthesize newer aesthetic/cultural concerns with older Cageian ideals. While the 80’s played out in the media with Wall Street Yuppies and decadent consumerists grabbing the spotlight, many of us spent time on the edge of the culture, which in turn planted the seeds for the more politically charged times in which we now live. […] The final essay here is “Poethics of a Complex Realism” by Joan Retallack and note the word realism in the title. Retallack begins her essay with an invocation of American Pragmatist John Dewey’s “Art As Experience” and launches into a long discussion of the idea of weather as it relates to the ideas of John Cage. Cage said that he wanted his music to be like the weather–unpredictable, omnidirectional, impermanent, and always changing–complex systems that parallel the conditions of our daily life. He did several works involving the weather, modeling his ideas after nature (again, a tip of the hat to American Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau), which are described here. Retallack takes the word play of weather/whether and sets up a correspondence between the physical (realized) and the theoretical (unrealized). She then posits an ethic based on the principle of weather/whether. Imagine, she says, a culture sophisticated and open enough to be able to accept difference and otherness, a culture that rejects the oversimplified media response of black/white, yes/no, a culture that embraces complexity and contradiction–a “breathable” culture. And it is here where the book brilliantly dovetails with the multicultural attitudes sweeping the country today. Cage stands in opposition to the reductive and closed ideas that multiculturalism have come to stand for. While multiculturalism plays by the media-supplied dualistic rules, Cage seems to dump the idea of rules altogether and instead celebrates the idea of difference and unpredictability as a prerequisite to understanding and accepting the difficulties inherent in a pluralistic culture. It appeals to this reader as the path of least resistance and being based in action, seems entirely workable. The multicultural debate has made many people aware of the issues, but it stands in theory only and lacks the kind of pragmatism and functionality that could lead to real change as prescribed here. […], in Kenneth Goldsmith, University of Buffalo, 1995, reviewing and revisiting “John Cage Composed In America“, Essays edited by Marjorie Perloff & Charles Junkerman 1994, 286 pages, paperback, The University of Chicago Press, USA.

Video – John Cage, appearing on a 1960 CBS gameshow called I’ve Got A Secret (from Ian Leslie + Alex Ross). Cage’s ‘secret’ is that he is an avant-garde composer. After being introduced by the presenter he performs a piece called Water Walk (… more).

Kitaoka colour illusion

Fig. – Illusion created by Prof. Akiyoshi Kitaoka (Dep. of Psychology, Ritsumeikan Univ., Kyoto, Japan). If you don’t see any illusion at all, don’t worry. That’s exactly why this optical illusion is so great. The illusion is not there, or is it?! Meanwhile over his page, Akiyoshi warns: This page contains some works of “anomalous motion illusion”, which might make sensitive observers dizzy or sick. Should you feel dizzy, you had better leave this page immediately (more).

Where’s the illusion, right? Well,… what if I just tell you that no blue at all is used over this picture! No matter how strongly you want to believe you are seeing blue and green spirals here, there is no blue color in this image. There is only green, red and orange. What you think is blue is actually green. Don’t worry, … you are not daltonic. I mean, I’m a little bit but, you could check this out through Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop, if you need an affirmation. Indeed, these are just “Vain speculation un­deceived by the senses” (1670’s Scilla’s treatise) .

In fact, Relations here, between different colors (green, red and orange), are more important than each color by itself. Relations plus context are the key (more here over Generative Art, and here over Swarm Intelligence based Pattern Recognition). Through these relations, much probably using Gestalt‘s principles (the German word Gestalt could be translated into “configuration or pattern”), here Akiyoshi manages to emerge us the blue color over our perception. This does not cheat a computer of course, however could cheat our own eyes. In other areas the opposite could also be found. For instance, Humans can easily recognize a car over background trees (segment it, in just tiny lapses of a second), while this natural task could be extremely painful for computers over some cases (here is one example).

Born in Prague (inspired by 1890’s works of Christian von Ehrenfels, Austrian philosopher), then later absorbed by a great and tremendous intellectual period occurred from Germany back to Austria (Bauhaus), the Gestalt Laws of Organization have guided the study of how people perceive visual components as organized patterns or wholes, instead of many different parts. I would say that most certainly some Wertheimer’s gestaltic principles were used in here: Figure and Ground, Similarity, Proximity or Contiguity, Continuity, Closure, Area, and Symmetry (check Gestalt Theory of Visual Perception). We could see this happening also in other areas, … in Music for instance:

[…] Gestalt theory first arose in 1890 as a reaction to the prevalent psychological theory of the time – atomism. Atomism examined parts of things with the idea that these parts could then be put back together to make wholes. Atomists believed the nature of things to be absolute and not dependent on context. Gestalt theorists, on the other hand, were intrigued by the way our mind perceives wholes out of incomplete elements [1, 2]. “To the Gestaltists, things are affected by where they are and by what surrounds them…so that things are better described as “more than the sum of their parts.” [1, p. 49]. Gestaltists believed that context was very important in perception. An essay by Christian von Ehrenfels discussed this belief using a musical example. Take a 12 note melody. Play it in one key, say the key of C. Now change to another key, say the key of A flat. There might not be any notes the same in the two songs, yet a person listening to it knows that it is the same tune. It is the relationships between the notes that give us the tune, the whole, not which notes make up the tune. […], from “Gestalt Principles of Perception“, Bonnie Skaalid, Univ. of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1999.

Care for an contemporary example? Well, … the first thing that comes to my mind is DUB music genre. In fact, I do have several albums from different musicians over my house. Dub music evolved in Jamaica (1968) from early rastafarian instrumental reggae music and versions that incorporated fairly primitive reverbs and echo sound effects, being found by accident (engineer Byron Smith left the vocal track out by accident). Over decades, it inspired immense groups of musicians from well-known bands such as The Police, The Clash, UB40 up to reputed musicians such as Bill Laswell. Of course !, it was not far from what John Cage have made for the solo piano Music of Changes, to determine which notes should be used and when they should sound. In the fifty’s, Cage start it to use the mechanism of the I Ching (Chinese “Book of Changes”) in the composition of his music in order to provide a framework for his uses of chance.

Other most recent bands include, Leftfield, Massive Attack, Bauhaus, The Beastie Boys, Asian Dub Foundation, Underworld, Thievery Corporation, Gorillaz, Kruder & Dorfmeister, and DJ Spooky. But what is then so special about Dub? Well, one of this genre’s most striking features is the fact that some if not all musical sentences are incomplete. Those special sentences (Gestaltic, let me add), are normally followed by a pause. The most amazing thing however, is that us, Humans could perceive the entire sentence being formed on the back of our minds! So the music is not there, and at the same time, we are listening to two adjacent simultaneous melodies, as we were a composer. By just using relations among a few notes, we soon start to emerge a perception for the whole sentence, as if they were self-organizing! Being it extremely rhythmic, this often could lead us to a sweet soft state of overwhelming emotion, or exalted organic feel to the music .

As you will probably know by now, the same could happen over misplaced letters over an entire phrase. Even if some letters are not at their right proper place, at each word, we could still perceive the whole sentence meaning. Up to your gestaltic neurons to decipher.

Next time you go to a rave party (I never did, neither pretend to), do think about the title of this post, the figure above, as well as on all those great past musicians, along with – unfortunately – awkward current DJ’s, who pass on for hours strident music mixes without knowing at all what Gestalt is all about! Oh, … by the way, should you feel extremely dizzy, do follow Akiyoshi’s advice: If you start feeling unwell when using this website (rave party), immediately cover one eye with your hand and then leave the page (leave the party). Do not close your both eyes because that can make the attack worse!

[...] People should learn how to play Lego with their minds. Concepts are building bricks [...] V. Ramos, 2002.

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