The Dao and Avant Garde: Understanding John Cage’s “4:33” from Ji Kang’s “Music Has in it Neither Grief nor Joy” (81072)

Session Information: Music and Arts
Session Chair: Justin John Moniz

Saturday, 25 May 2024 11:50
Session: Session 2
Room: Room 704
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

All presentation times are UTC + 9 (Asia/Tokyo)

Eastern thought had a decisive influence over the work of American composer John Cage(1912-1992). While there have been numerous studies about the connections of Cage's music with Zen and “Book of Changes”. This essay proposes that an analysis of Neo-Taoism thinker and musician Ji Kang’s(223-262)essay "Music Has in It Neither Grief nor Joy" (聲無哀樂論) may provide a reflection of light on Cage's ideas on music and sound. This paper shall address criticisms of Cage’s compositions “4:33” supposed lack of emotivity by analyzing it through Ji Kang’s Taoistic concepts of five elements. For instance, tears may come out when people laugh, cry or are exposed to smoke. Tears, thus, lack an inherent meaning, an example that illustrates the concept of music and sound as a medium which lacks any specific emotional function. In addition, Neo-Taoism categories shall be put forward to touch upon criticisms of Cage’s "ambiguous" concepts about "chance" and "indeterminacy, which call to question if Cage actually addressed concepts "randomness" and "coincidence" occurrences. In that regard, Neo-Taoism’s views and interpretation about the “Book of changes” may shed light regarding the underlying logic of Cage’s compositions. Finally, this essay shall point out the importance of understanding Cage’s notion of “harmony” with Ji Kang’s ideas of “He Sheng” (和聲) by analyzing his composition “Song of Wind through Pines” through the lens of Neo-Taoist ideas of Natural Ethics.

Ling Sayuri Chen, Independent Scholar, Japan

About the Presenter(s)
Dr. Ling Sayuri CHEN is an Independent Scholar and Former Research Fellow at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies. Her research has focused on the concept of "Integration" through the examination of ancient Asian arts and rituals.

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Posted by Clive Staples Lewis

Last updated: 2023-02-23 23:45:00