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Type: Journal article
Title: Digging in John Cage's garden: John Cage and Ryoanji
Author: Whittington, S.C.
Citation: Malaysian Music Journal, 2013; 2(2):12-21
Publisher: Penerbit Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris
Issue Date: 2013
ISSN: 2232-1020
Statement of
Stephen Whittington
Abstract: John Cage’s interest in Japanese gardens came to the fore in the series of instrumental works Ryoanji (1983-1985), and the related visual art works Where R=Ryoanji (1983- 1992). In this paper the author proposes that the aesthetics of Japanese traditional gardens can provide insights into Cage’s work as a whole. Traditional Japanese aesthetics, which permeate garden design, tea culture, poetry and the other arts, had a significant impact on Western modernism. The ‘Zen boom’ in the West, in which Cage played an important part, furthered the perceived relationship between Japanese aesthetics, Zen Buddhism and modernism. The dry stone garden at Ryōanji came to exemplify the spirit of Zen in garden design. In relationship to the work of Cage, many aspects of traditional gardens are relevant: the preference for asymmetry, the importance of empty space, the borrowed view, the use of re-purposed materials, and the acceptance of limitations either imposed by available space and resources or as a result of aesthetic preference. Cage’s interpretation of the garden at Ryōanji was made in the light of his own preoccupations with chance procedures and nonintention; it thus became part of what the author describes as Cage’s ‘genealogy’ – a non-linear constellation of influences and ideas interpreted by Cage and incorporated into his thought and work. In 2012, with the assistance of a grant from the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, the author recently spent several months in Kyoto, Japan, studying traditional Japanese garden design and its relationship to music.
Keywords: John Cage; Japanese gardens; Zen Buddhism; aesthetics
Rights: Copyright status unknown
RMID: 0030027841
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Appears in Collections:Music publications, scores & recorded works

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