John Cage

The Ernie Kovacs of the Avant Garde


Since I invoked John Cage in my column yesterday, I thought I'd celebrate New Year's Eve with this wonderfully odd TV moment from 1960, in which the experimental composer appeared on I've Got a Secret:

You know what makes America great? The fact that this happened on a game show.

NEXT: (Upper) Class War

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  1. Jesse, the dispute between two unions about who had the right to plug in the five radios was precious! Despite the encroachments of various central authorities on our lives today, the restraints on free markets and free minds 50 years ago, when I watched I’ve Got a Secret as a 13-year-old, were mind boggling. Thanks for that trip down memory lane. And I would suggest another I’ve Got a Secret clip, from 1965, with Ray Kurzweil:

    1. I’ve experienced a similar “union jurisdiction” problem trying to get a booth set up for a trade show in Vegas. Some things haven’t changed all that much.

      1. How much are the electricians charging to plug in your extension cord at the Vegas convention center these days?

        The whole enterprise is affected by union restrictions, hence the development of collapsible displays.

  2. Thanks, Jesse, for the final idiocy of 2010. You’re not posting anything else, are you? Happy New year!

    1. Edward, what’s your new year’s resolution? It’s to finally succeed at autobukkakke, isn’t it?

      1. I doubt that, Warty. Getting it from the local chapter of the Vice Lords is just too delicious for Maxie to turn inward.

        1. We bring the year to close on a classy note.

    2. Would Professor Price be more to your liking?

    3. Cheer up, Max. Maybe this is the year your balls finally drop.

  3. That’s immoral!

    1. Immorality? Sins are forgiven when you read my newest post. Happy New Year you little bastard.

    2. Immorality? Sins are forgiven when you read my newest post. Happy New Year you little bastard.

      1. Your begging and attention seeking is delightfully pathetic. When are you going to grow up?

  4. Wolk is also seeking the identities of these unknown bloggers who have charged him with child molestation and bestiality.…..f-banking-“it-is-of-stunning-coincidence”/

  5. I’ve heard him described as an anarchist…

    I heard that a performance of his music once started with an otherwise empty stage except for a gong in the middle of it. His piece was written so that it couldn’t begin until someone from the audience became so fed up with waiting for the performance to start, the he or she would finally walk up onto the stage and strike the gong.

    1. A perfect place for the CIA to recruit some assassins!

  6. The other great thing about America is that a big fat musical ZERO like Cage could become famous.

    Wait, did I say that was good thing?

    1. He isn’t famous. Never was. Infamous, perhaps.

  7. This (and the 4’33” piece on the other article) are really… good. Nice find!

  8. SO is there anyone (other than me)old enough to remember this show? Or the host?

    (Garry Moore)

    1. I remember both.

      Happy 57th birthday to me (Dec 31).

      … Hobbit

      1. Kill the Boomer! It’s all your fault!

      2. Is Viagra covered under Medicare? Happy Birthday sweetheart.;-)

  9. I don’t understand why the audience were cracking up. The music was ok. If you imagine a murderer entering a house, with the owner busy in the kitchen then the music made sense. It seemed to me that Cage went to extremes to get the sound he wanted. Today we use a noise generator.

  10. Let’s hear your stupid new year’s resolutions. Mine is not to get Reason sued by Arthur Allan Wolk this year.

    1. Too late.

      Just “kidding.” Happy New Year, Reasonoids!

  11. Mine is to decry the profoundly stupid policies of the Obama Administration–without necessarily implicating the personal ignorance of Barack Obama.

    So, before that predilection of mine turns into a pumpkin in a couple of hours here? Your garden variety fast food restaurant manager knows more about the economy than he does. Barack Obama really is an ignoramus.

  12. Happy New Year.
    Mine is to finish my novel or just move to a cabin in the woods to type “redrum, redrum” repeatedly but with spelling errors.

    1. I think we all look forward to you finishing your novel, so that you can spend your time endlessly whoring that instead of your blog.

      1. What’s wrong with whoring? We can’t all be a “versatile and talented writer with a focus on brevity, clarity, and consistency… committed to better communications whether I am writing it from scratch or just polishing your existing material.”

        1. I just love how bloggers include “About Me” sections…shouldn’t your writing tell us about you? If not, why should we bother to read your screeds?

  13. I changed my mind, my New Year’s resolution is to get over the fact that my parents sexually exploited me, leading to a life of compulsive attention seeking. I know you loved me Dad I don’t need your approval anymore!

  14. Dammit, just like last year (still above 400 pounds), I’ve failed my New Year’s resolution.


  15. Heller if you’re going to spoof me, use my blog link

    1. Heller if you’re going to spoof me, use my blog link

      1. Heller if you’re going to spoof me, use my blog link

        1. Heller if you’re going to spoof me, use my blog link

          1. Heller if you’re going to spoof me, use my blog link

            1. Heller if you’re going to spoof me, use my blog link

  16. Similar to 2,000 Light Years from Home intro.

  17. Dude, the date- it’s, like, all ones!


  18. Does anyone out there remember the great Ernie Kovacs (dorf)?

  19. I resolve to go for another motorcycle ride today, since it’s still above freezing. Went out yesterday – face froze, the rest was fine. Biking is good for the soul. Biking in Michigan in Jan/Feb/Mar is…dicy.

    Keep the shiny side up. Merry New Year!

  20. Cage was important not because he was a great composer of experimental music (he was hit and miss, although that may be an inevitable consequence of being experimental); he was, rather, important because he popularized the idea that it was okay to be experimental with music. That work (then) allows folks like me who make experimental music more likely to find an audience (today).

    Blatant self-promo: noisy, rhythm driven instrumental drones for those who like that sort of thing.

    1. As Lisa Simpson said, “You have to listen to the notes he doesn’t play.”

  21. John Cage was truly the Jackson Pollack of music. Everything he ever did was utter crap.


    1. Not into his innovative use of radios as percussion?

  22. Wasn’t Ernie Kovacs the Ernie Kovacs of the Avant Garde, or am I missing the humor of the title?

  23. Wow, am I happy I stopped in at this blog and saw this!

    What a great find from the vaults. This is the only John Cage piece I’ve ever seen and while he seems like a very nice man I can say I’m all filled up now with John Cage.

    And the bit with the unions messing up his performance, well that is just the cherry on top!

    50 years of cr*p America, when will it end?

  24. And here I was expecting some dancing in a unisex bathroom. Oh well, doomed to disappointment.

  25. Not so surprising that John Cage appeared on the show. During this period, Buffalo, New York — a working class city — was a center of avant garde music, with Lukas Foss as conductor. One of the highlights of a new music festival there was a 15-minute symphony of metronomes, another was Cage’s symphony where a pianist banged on the piano with a hammer.

    New music was a serious endeavor there.

  26. i saw little fockers last night and they had a similar dispute aout backing up a truck

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