Branden W. Joseph’s Beyond the Dream Syndicate

AFTER HEARING LA MONTE YOUNG’S 2 Sounds at Richard Maxfield’s New York studio, John Cage—as recounted in Branden W. Joseph’s Beyond the Dream Syndicate—compared the experience to “see[ing] something through a microscope.” Consisting of two sustained scraping sounds closely miked and amplified to create a sonic envelope into which the listener seems to disappear, Young’s 1960 composition allowed Cage to “hear in the interior of the sound, in the interior of the action.” By amplifying the scraping noises and extending their duration, the piece transformed sound into an environment or architecture, rather than a temporal object—that is, into a field of forces within which the listener is one atom among others, a sustained vibration inseparable from the sound he or she no longer hears so much as transmits.

Cage’s encounter with Young’s work and its magnification, or “blowing up,” of sound is

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