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PRINT October 1992

IN THE FORM OF A THISTLE: A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN CAGE

Milarepa lived at the same time as Eckhart. He flew through the air in the form of a thistle.

—John Cage

John Cage, who died on August 12 of this year, exerted immense influence not only in the field of music but throughout Western culture. It is hardly necessary to rehearse his credentials. One could argue that the entire surprising and vital unfolding of late-Modernist and early post-Modernist culture in America sprang from the Black Mountain group of the immediate postwar period, a group in which Cage was the undoubted mastermind and free spirit. The publication of his book Silence, in 1961, marked an epochal moment in late Modernism, a heady glimpse of the possibility of overthrowing the whole karma of Western history. Can anyone deny the impact of John’s recommendation simply to ignore the music history (tacitly the history at large) of the last millennium—and of the incredible fact

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