Like so many modernist artists, architects, and composers, John Cage was enthralled by the dry garden of the famed Ryōan-ji temple in Kyoto. In his later years he created numerous graphic and musical works inspired by this garden. They are of particular interest insofar as they test the limits of representation, reveal the intricacies of audio mimesis, and speak to the complications of intercultural aesthetic influences.

The unequivocal focus of the Zen garden is stones. We find stones alongside stones, stones upon stones, stones representing mountains, stones crushed to gravel, and often just single exceptional stones that all by themselves constitute a landscape. In Chinese and Japanese cosmology—be it Taoist, Buddhist, Shinto, or animist—stones are not mere inanimate objects, but rather concentrations of cosmic and telluric energy (ch’i) flowing in different patterns throughout the universe. The Japanese Zen master Dōgen insists that pebbles are sentient beings that participate in Buddha’s nature, and according to Shinto tradition, the natural or artificial rock arrangements of certain sites have the function of attracting the kami, those supernatural creatures or deities that inhabit the forests and mountains.

Figure 1.

Ryōan-ji. Photo by Allen S. Weiss.

Figure 1.

Ryōan-ji. Photo by Allen S. Weiss.

Close modal

Rocks are of such great aesthetic importance that one classic Chinese book of painting teaches: “In order to learn to paint, one must invariably learn how to paint rocks. Of all the techniques of using the brush, none are more difficult than those required for rocks, and no subject calls for a greater range of techniques than rocks do.”1 Not only have the forms of many different types of mountains been enumerated in the annals of Chinese painting, but there also exists a specific repertory of brushstrokes for representing different aspects of mountains, such as “coiled up clouds,” “hatchet marks,” “devil’s face,” “skeleton’s skull,” “sesame seeds,” etc.2 Stone may be deemed the foundation of representation, and the iconicity of such painting extends down to the very form of the brushstrokes.

The Chinese love of rocks has influenced and may have even been surpassed by the Japanese. One of the classics of Japanese landscape art, the priest Zōen’s 15th-century Illustrations for Designing Mountain, Water, and Hillside Field Landscapes, enumerates 57 types of named rocks, reduced from the 361 of Chinese tradition and from the thousands in certain Indian manuscripts. Rocks are categorized into types according to structure, function (scenic and sensory effects), and symbolism (Taoist, Shinto, Confucian, Buddhist): side rocks, lying rocks, wave-repelling rocks, water-cutting rocks, stepping stones, shadow-facing stones, ducks’ abode rocks, hovering mist rocks, human form rocks, mirror rocks, reverence rocks, demon rocks, vengeful-spirit rocks, taboo rocks, triadic Buddhist waterfall rocks, etc.3 In practice, the total number of named stones is countless, and in many dry Zen gardens, all stones are named. Specific rocks may symbolize mountains, both mythological and real, most often either Sumeru (the axis mundi of the Buddhist paradise) or Mount Fuji (the most visible and sacred natural phenomenon of Japan). Furthermore, the form of the Zen dry garden, composed primarily of stones on a raked gravel ground, most fundamentally and generally represents mountains arising from the ocean. However, many modern commentators see Ryōan-ji in Kyoto as among the most abstract of Zen gardens, to the point that some totally deny its symbolism and consider it to be fully abstract. This is certainly in part due to the fact that unlike most Zen gardens, not only are the stones themselves of little particular aesthetic interest, but also none of the stones is named. Yet this degree of abstraction hardly implies that the garden escapes the representational logic implied in the Japanese name for such gardens: karesansui, “dry mountain water.”

Given the primacy of the lithic in Zen gardens, one of the key antinomies of the dry garden is that its symbolism is so profoundly aquatic. The very notion of a “sea” of sand or a “waterfall” of rock, a contradiction in terms, is particularly appropriate to the Zen spirit of illogic and paradox. For in the Zen garden—where landscape is rarely dissociated from metaphor and symbolism—contradiction is of the essence, as both metaphysical underpinning and design feature. Indeed, the great 20th-century garden historian and landscape architect Shigemori Mirei insists that, “until one can silently meditate on it, until one can hear the sound of waves emanating from the entire garden, one has not understood the garden at Ryōanji.”4 The ancient Japanese word for garden is shima (island), and the term for landscape is senzui or sansui (mountains and waters, from the Chinese shansui, landscape). This amalgam of mountain and water, vertical and horizontal, rugged opacity and liquid smoothness, volumetric and planimetric, alludes to the central design features of the Zen garden. The poet and ecologist Gary Snyder states it most succinctly: “Mountains and Waters are a dyad that together make wholeness possible […] ‘Mountains and waters’ is a way to refer to the totality of the process of nature.”5 The precedent for this symbolic and visual conflation of water and rock is already found in the Chinese antecedents of Japanese art. According to ancient Chinese cosmology, far too complex to examine here in detail, the reciprocity between water and mountain is a function of the void. As analyzed by François Cheng, things are metaphysically transformed by passing through the void, a process pictorially represented, in the Chinese Song landscape painting that so influenced Japanese aesthetics, by the function of the blank canvas. Here, water and mountain do not exist in rigid antithesis, but rather in fluid reciprocity, where the cloud is a condensation of water that takes on geological form as it incarnates the dynamics of the real, such that “water can virtually evaporate into clouds and inversely clouds can virtually fall back as water, and mountains are finally capable of changing into waves and waves of forming mountains.”6 Indeed, following Taoist cosmology, the rock is seen as a dynamic entity, as Cheng, writing of mountains in Chinese art, explains:

Moved by breath, nourished with fog and wind, it is capable of metamorphosis. Poets and painters baptized it with the beautiful name, “root of the clouds.” Constantly transformed by the energy of the ground and the sky, it offers multiple facets and incarnates multiple attitudes: placidity and torment, tenderness and savagery.7

With changes in perspective and lighting, framing, and atmospheric conditions, the physiognomy of rocks and mountains is transformed at every instant, becoming fluid as water. Here, in what might be a definition of paradox, metaphor and antithesis coincide.

Cognizance of vast formal homologies is crucial in approaching the Zen garden. Metaphor, abstraction, and stylization are always a matter of degree, and they all make up what we generally call representation. However, incompatibilities and contradictions are of as much interest as resemblances. The famed Zen adage attributed to the Chinese master Qingyuan Weixin, and oft quoted by John Cage, is particularly apt in this context: Before enlightenment, mountains are mountains and waters are waters; during the quest for enlightenment, mountains are not mountains and waters are not waters; after enlightenment, mountains are just mountains and waters are just waters. Such is the very structure of metaphoricity and literalness. We might well apply this adage to the stones (mountains) and raked gravel (sea) of Ryōan-ji, in order to reveal the profound polysemy of this garden, and to insist that it can simultaneously represent utopia and the void, energy and ocean, landscape and painting. For in art, especially Zen art, the Aristotelian laws of non-contradiction no longer hold. This might well explain a fundamental irony in Ryōan-ji, the fact that the bed of gravel on which the stones rest prefigures what the stones will one day themselves become, mere sand; and furthermore, that this sand has always represented water. The paradoxically aquatic effect of dry gardens is well described by art historian Yoshinobu Yoshinaga: “The garden is an attempt to represent the innermost essence of water, without actually using water, and to represent it even more profoundly than would be possible with real water.”8 Without appreciating such ambiguous and contradictory metaphors and representations, essential iconographic features are lost, and these gardens are reduced to purely formal enterprises. Furthermore, a typically Zen equivocation also disappears by eliminating the sense of wet dryness and dry wetness.

What are we to make of all this dry, overly stylized water at Ryōan-ji, with its dramatic relation between ripple patterns—longitudinal across the garden, concentric around the rock groups—seemingly illustrating the laws of wave mechanics? These wave patterns appear to be contradictory, because only waves seen from high altitudes appear motionless, yet those at Ryōan-ji, still as stone, are within touching distance. This would suggest a conflation of viewpoints: the real, proximate, human viewpoint (close enough so that the waves should be moving, but are not) and an ideal viewpoint, either of a human on a high mountain crest (or today in an airplane), or that of a deity in the heavens, far enough to still the waves.9 Yet more profoundly, the stillness and timelessness of these unchanging forms are troubled by the suggestion of an originary moment. The circular patterns around the rock formations seem to represent that very instant, that eternally irrevocable event—unique and decisive like a calligraphic mark—when the stones were cast into that great, empty, primal, wave-filled sea: an ever-present representation of the mythic creative instant when the stones were posed once and for all eternity. While at one level the gravel represents waves surrounding islands, at another they are the patterns of energy emanating from the stones themselves. The wave patterns seen as manifestations of originary telluric energy in Ryōan-ji are more primal than the metaphoric ocean they are said to represent. Frozen time or eternal stillness? Permanence or transience? It is as if the horizontal waves were those of the chaos before creation, and the circular ones traces of the origins of the world, both existing in equivocal perpetuity. Such is the space of dry water, still waves, proximate distance—the space of the impossible, the space of paradox, the space of Zen enlightenment.

***

In an article entitled “Paul Claudel exégète du Japon,” Maurice Pinguet tempers homage to his illustrious predecessor Claudel with a list of errors contained in his writings, among which we find: “he sees fifteen stones in the garden of Ryōan-ji which only has fourteen.”10 That none of my acquaintances who know both the article and the garden in question noted Pinguet’s error, and that no corrective footnote is offered in the published article, is symptomatic. For the garden of Ryōan-ji was conceived to foster precisely this type of confusion. Nearly everybody who has visited Ryōan-ji, including John Cage, believes that from any given vantage point on the veranda of the temple, only 14 of the 15 stones are visible. Whatever may be the sublime meditative heights attainable in this garden, the main activity of the many schoolchildren who visit it is counting the stones over and over as they move across the veranda, with the inevitable unabashed astonishment to discover what they already knew: that from any given spot they will never arrive at a full count of 15. This is because they do not know the secret. It is true that from any given zazen (seated meditation) position along the veranda, only 14 stones can be seen. However, if viewed from the right corner pillar of the temple, all 15 stones become, at least partially, visible. The other secret is that all the stones are also partially visible if viewed from approximately the middle of the altar room, with the shōji open to create the proper sight lines, though tourists are generally forbidden to enter this space.

The ambiguity of the stone count establishes an undecidability of the appropriate spectatorial position (unlike the precisely determined viewing imperatives demanded by works done in one-point linear perspective, such as the French formal garden).11 It is telling that the only totalizing viewpoints are one that is improbable if not quite impossible, being just beyond the knowledge of most visitors, and another that is forbidden to all but the initiated and the invited. This is not to mention the bird’s-eye view that would reveal all the stones, with its consequent valorization of the ground plan. This transcendent viewpoint of an omniscient observer, always on the aesthetic horizon of theologically inflected Western gardens such as Versailles, is, however, unthinkable in the traditional Japanese context.12 There is yet one more impossible viewpoint, one more secret: Two signatures, most probably of the stoneworkers who crafted the garden, appear on the back of the leftmost rear stone. But the time is long past when one can enter this garden, and our viewpoints are limited to those upon the veranda.13 Thus both the garden’s design and modern usage play upon the equivocation of a series of incomplete views, complicated by two facts: The laws of visual gestalts reveal that most people cannot easily intuit the exact number of 15 assembled objects, and the usual viewing protocols of Zen gardens limit the possible viewpoints, since one cannot enter most karesansui. These factors conspire to transform this sublime garden into a visual conundrum based on the undecidability between multiple ostensive viewpoints and secret perspectives.

So much landscape study suffers from a narrowly construed sense of representation, where gardens are imagined as pictures to be seen rather than fields to be entered, according to analyses that promote a static ontological model based on perspectival projections rather than a dynamic one founded on kinesthetic transformations. These heuristic issues are complicated by the particularity of the dry Zen garden in that it usually cannot be entered, and many of these gardens indeed undergo the most minimal seasonal changes—both conditions seeming to imply a certain perspectival and iconographic stasis. However, both walking and sitting are integral to the Zen sensibility, and both are fully integrated into Zen garden design. The wooden corridors or galleries that surround and connect buildings—serving as walkways between the various buildings of a temple, and as verandas when they pass in front of an altar, tearoom, abbot’s private quarters or inner sanctum—often have no banisters and are of a height that invites the visitor to sit and contemplate the garden. The corridors are simultaneously walkways and seats and have a double role in defining the spatiality of these gardens, much as the floor (also used for walking and sitting) always does in Japanese architecture. Mobility is thus inscribed in the very design of Ryōan-ji.

The spatiality of the veranda-corridor is bifunctional, and thus potentially equivocal. The dry garden usually has many possible viewpoints: There is no single ideal seated position at the edge of the veranda, and well over a dozen people can comfortably sit side by side at Ryōan-ji. Furthermore, one may observe the garden sitting or standing, from the edge of the veranda or from within the facing rooms, still or walking. Yet such gardens are so small that the visual difference between viewpoints is enormous. In general, the Zen garden is a perpetual play of thresholds and passages, statics and dynamics, pictorial views and abstract spaces. The effects of movement (whether lateral, vertical, or in depth) are amplified within these gardens due to their extremely small size, some existing within but a few square meters. The angles of vision, relationship between elements, implied horizon lines, effects of closure, degree of framing, play of thresholds, narrative allusions, and symbolic implications are all transformed not only by the particular point of view chosen along the veranda, but also according to whether one is sitting, standing, or walking (all appropriate attitudes for Zen meditation). Due to the small scale of most karesansui, the viewpoint changes radically as one moves about, and since the corridors are only about one meter from ground level, the mere difference between sitting and standing often results in a prodigious change in perspective, which may alternately (and often simultaneously and equivocally) be frontal, oblique, or aerial—if such terms common in Western art and architecture have any meaning in such a context, which is doubtful. Indeed, these considerations complicate relations between the planar and the volumetric aspects of these gardens, given the fact that the apparent forms of walls and stones, for example, change so greatly with even the slightest movement. In the extremely restricted space of the dry Zen garden, a mere few steps, even the tilt of the head, may effect transformations of cosmic dimensions. Some of these gardens are narrower than the height of an average person, and one’s shadow may well cover an entire landscape. Others are so subtle that they may not be immediately recognizable as gardens and may literally be passed over as one crosses a walkway or enters a building. A garden or not a garden, that is the question.

***

John Cage loved stones, and he collected them from all over the world. At one point he even claimed, of a particular stone, that “there are so many faces to this particular rock that it’s like an exhibition of several works of art.”14 He also loved Ryōan-ji from the moment he saw it during his first trip to Japan in 1962, which places him in the lineage of great modernists inspired by this garden, including architect and urban planner Bruno Taut, whose appreciation of the garden in the context of Western modernism was the major source of its discovery by the West and its rediscovery by the Japanese themselves; Walter Gropius, who wrote extensively on the subject in the context of international modernism; and Philip Johnson, who is said to have burst into tears upon seeing the garden. In 1983 Cage produced a series of drawings and engravings titled Where R = Ryoanji, based on the outlines of 15 small stones from his collection. (To simplify the procedure, he created templates from each stone for future use.) For each iteration of the work, chance operations using the I Ching determined the choice of stone (template) and its placement on the paper, the type of pencil used, the number of times each stone (template) was used, and the total number of outlines drawn. (In many instances the total number of outlines is so large and the overlapping so dense that it is impossible to recognize individual silhouettes of the stones.) The only invariables are the proportions of the paper and the particular 15 stones that were used. The result is a seeming jumble of irregularly drawn and mostly overlapping circles on a blank background. In the garden, the stone count is determinate but ambiguous; in any given drawing, the count is determinate and unambiguous; but as the drawings exist in a potentially open-ended series, the potential count is random and indeterminate.

Figure 2.

Allen S. Weiss, Ryōan-ji, Homage to John Cage (2020). Fifteen pebbles from the author’s collection were used as templates.

Figure 2.

Allen S. Weiss, Ryōan-ji, Homage to John Cage (2020). Fifteen pebbles from the author’s collection were used as templates.

Close modal

The fundamental intuition for these drawings is Cage’s radical—and one might say eccentric, if not downright peculiar and contentious—claim concerning the garden at Ryōan-ji: “I told him that I thought those stones could have been anywhere in that space, that I doubted whether their relationship was a planned one, that the emptiness of the sand was such that it could support stones at any points in it.”15 Might this suggest an aesthetic primacy of the ineluctable, unchanging existence of the stones themselves, as opposed to the act of placement, which is ultimately an empty gesture? Or is the contingency of their existence overshadowed precisely by the performance of their placement, akin to a Zen gesture? In either case, for Cage any given form of the final design is provisional and beside the point.

We should consider the differences between the garden of Ryōanji and Cage’s series of drawings Where R = Ryoanji according to the visual logic of the garden in specific, and the act of landscaping in general. In this context, the drawings resemble nothing so much as preparatory sketches for a garden, a sheer schematization based on two pregiven factors: the initial choice of the 15 stones to be used, and the limits of the ground plan. Here, the shape of the page is roughly approximate that of the garden, while the number of stones used is identical to that of Ryōan-ji (though their forms greatly differ), and the final number of stones depicted varies. The rest of the garden’s details (raked gravel, moss, walls, temple surroundings, adjacent gardens) are eliminated. If the random placement of stones on the page suggests an elementary form of model, the sketching of their circumferences reduces this model to a two-dimensional schema of a garden visualized from above, a ground plan, essentially an abstraction. Between the garden and the drawings there thus obtain transformations of material, form, viewpoint, size, and even the type of equivocation. Furthermore, the stones of the garden Ryōan-ji are set once and for all, while those of the drawings are perpetually repositioned. Seen according to this instrumentalization of representational logic, one might go so far as to say that the drawn circumferences do not actually represent the stones but rather the circular wave patterns that form around the stones, like those raked into the gravel of the garden. In the drawings the stones disappear, and what is left are traces of the originary instant of creativity, signs of the energy emanating from the stones, and more specifically, the energy of Cage’s hand drawing. And, as we shall see, the drawings that fix the abstract forms of the stones nearly voided of symbolic and representational content will be further transmuted into a form of energy that we call music.16

We thus find the representation of a garden and its stones transmogrified into the trace of a gesture or a performance. The semantic and symbolic content of the garden is nearly, but not totally, vacated in these empty images, not unlike that of language in Cage’s Empty Words (1973–78).17 Might this suggest a new mode of landscaping, where the very form of a garden may be in perpetual transformation? Yet isn’t this, in fact, what natura naturans, nature as an active principle, does to all gardens? Or is this ultimate extrapolation of the garden’s imagery, a reductio ad absurdum confusing singularity with genre, such that any disposition of a given number of objects on any empty field would be aesthetically equivalent? It would seem that Cage valorized the indeterminacy of the process over the equivocation of the object. Perhaps this situation arose from the fact that Cage identified with the creators of Ryōan-ji rather than the spectators of the garden, valuing creative gesture over spectatorship. Or might these drawings be the trace of an iconoclastic act, a fantasy of the destruction of Ryōan-ji? In any case, it would seem that the fundamental motivation for this series was to prove that the 15 pebbles could be placed anywhere on the paper, just as he argued was the case for the stones in the garden.

It has often been suggested that to show the perfection of the stone arrangement at Ryōan-ji, one should imagine moving any one of the stones such that the resulting disequilibrium would reveal, a contrario, the unalterable genius of the garden. Whether or not this may be true—and Cage would clearly disagree, since Where R = Ryoanji demands the perpetual displacement of the stones—one might consider the following fantasy, a sort of mental experiment. Imagine the day, perhaps after a great frost, when one of the stones would be found completely fissured, half of it remaining standing, and the other half lying flat on its side, thus creating a new pattern with 16 instead of 15 stones. This haphazard breakage would be a monumental event in the history of art, and the subsequent curatorial and theoretical debate would certainly reveal immense conceptual rifts in the theory and practice of preservation and conservation. Should the two pieces be left as is? Would it depend on the beauty of the broken pieces? Should the fallen piece be removed, and the standing part retained, or vice versa if a better pattern is thus obtained? Should the two pieces be invisibly mended? Or restored like fine Japanese pottery by the kintsugi technique of using gold-filled lacquer? Or perhaps red lacquer, alluding to the sacred Shinto torii (gateways) that punctuate the Japanese landscape? Or should the stone be replaced with a homologue? Or with a stone of completely different form, so as to mark the historic moment of the rupture?

If some people are confused as to whether there are 14 or 15 stones in Ryōan-ji, Cage’s memory of the garden just before his death is most surprising: “The stones are arranged in such a way that there appear to be three, but in actuality there are fifteen. They’re in three groups.”18 (To the contrary, as one can easily see, there are—counting from the left—five groups, of 5, 2, 3, 2, 3 stones apiece.) This insouciance regarding counting might be elucidated in part by a childhood anecdote. When asked to guess how many jelly beans there were in a jar, Cage wrote “I remember thinking it would be quite impossible to know how many jelly beans there were, and it wouldn’t make any difference whether I said 489 or 496.”19 Might we imagine that this indifference to, indeed neglect of, exact count might have had something to do with his disdain for both meter and the well-tempered scale, which in turn underpinned the revolutions he inaugurated in the domains of rhythm and harmony? Might this be the reason that Cage neglects the secret of Ryōan-ji, that is, the existence of those two privileged points from which all the stones are visible and all equivocation is abolished? For to maintain ambiguity, equivocation, and mystery is to demand process.

Whatever the case, the reduction of the garden to its schematic representation radically reduces the tension between abstraction and figuration—both of which contribute to the richness of the garden—by destroying the iconographic equivocation. In relation to the garden, there are not too few stones in Cage’s drawings, but too many. And it is only by reference to the title of Cage’s series that we know these works somehow represent the garden, or even the stones. With Where R = Ryoanji, we are at the limits of metaphor and representation, in part due to the transformation of medium and the extreme reduction of form, and in part due to the emphasis on gesture and process. Of course, certain modern hermeneutic systems insist that anything may represent anything else; this is a fortiori the case if the terms of similarity are reduced to but one or two characteristics, thus suggesting the possibility of an unlimited semiosis leading to an infinitude of representations.

Within the corpus of Cage, who studiously avoided representation by privileging metonymy over metaphor—or as he would say in Zen-related terms, by privileging interpenetration without obstruction—this late instance of representation in Where R = Ryoanji, however attenuated, is astonishing. In terms of Western aesthetics, one might say that the rarefied, tenuous, and minimal aspects of these images are so distant from the garden they represent as to practically obviate their representational aspects. However, Japanese aesthetics values just such qualities of rarefied allusion. Consider, for example, the celebrated tea bowl Fujisan (one of eight tea bowls [chawan] designated as national treasures in Japan) created by the legendary potter Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637), where a subtle effect of slip and ash glaze vaguely resembles Mount Fuji seen through the fog. Zen aesthetics is exemplified by the attenuation of the literal by the indistinct, the shadowy, the obscure, the hazy. It is precisely such vagueness that motivates such a representational sensibility, illustrated by the perennial Japanese fascination with forms obscured by fog and mist, smoke and shadow, rain and snow. The state between the distinct and the inchoate, that moment when images emerge or disappear, the cusp between figuration and abstraction, is particularly valorized. This is an art of the incipient and the potential, of suggestion and allusion, manifested spatially by incompleteness and temporally by the suggestion of continual transformation. The desire for iconicity, the very anticipation of recognizing an image, creates a tension and dynamism in the perception of the object, transforming it into a partially open work, full of figurative potential.

Cage’s critique of representation was contemporaneous with and related to his desire to divest himself of authority and individuality by according aesthetic choices to the I Ching, insisting that he wished to work not in imitation of nature, but in imitation of nature’s processes, to “imitate nature in her manner of operation,”20 repeating an ancient Chinese adage dear to painters such as T’ang Tai (1673–1752): “It is not so much a matter of imitating nature than of becoming part of the very process of creation.”21 Cage absolutizes the “not so much” into an imperative. Some have construed this as an a priori elimination of symbolism, yet ancient Chinese and Japanese aesthetics both conceive of the natural world as a system of infinite interrelations and correspondences, such that metaphors and symbols are a function of ontology, not epistemology, thus an irreducible given. However, taking into account the infinite complexity of natural systems and the fact that questions of causality constitute one of the antinomies of thought, it would be impossible to determine whether either ancient Chinese painters or Cage ever succeeded in imitating the processes of nature. Thus we cannot assume that any of his works, the Ryōan-ji inspired pieces included, had been created in this manner. Furthermore, specifically in terms of the garden at Ryōan-ji, it was not nature but men who created the garden, and we simply do not know how the gardeners conceived this site. In any case, Cage had no intention of imitating the gardeners, as this would have entailed a vast project of historical, mythical, ritual, and iconographic analysis that was certainly antithetical to Cage’s modes of production, and which would have been a hyperbolically representational process. In fact, Ryōan-ji the garden and the Ryōan-ji inspired drawings have nothing in common other than the count of 15 stones and the support of a blank slate. The question remains as to whether number is a sufficient determinant of metaphor, or in more general terms, as to whether an algorithm can be construed as an icon.

While contemporary hermeneutics warns against both ad hominem arguments and the intentional fallacy, there would appear to be at least two major domains where such types of otherwise faulty reasoning might yield interesting results: any aesthetic based on gesture and performance, which implies a primacy of the individual body; and Zen-inspired aesthetics, where the moment of intuition is irreducibly and resolutely singular, personal, intimate. In terms of gesture, from the early 1950s onward, Cage was famous for wishing to void his work of any traces of personal choice (though of course all of his compositions consisted of framing mechanisms for decision making, which establish an instantly recognizable Cagean style in both score and performance). However, the Where R = Ryoanji series represents a rare direct concern with gestural possibilities (i.e., hand drawing), and of course once accomplished, every gesture becomes a trace, a reified object, a clue concerning its creation, a symptom of its creator. Cage valorized the indeterminacy of the process over the equivocation of the object, whence the desire to create a series of works rather than a single example. But even if Cage identified with the creator rather than the spectator, valuing process over object, these drawings are nevertheless traces, objectified and determinate.

In Where R = Ryoanji, the representation of the Ryōan-ji garden exists, in a most attenuated form, only as the mental image at the beginning of the creative process; the very act of drawing eradicates this image, and the finished works bear no recognizable trace of the garden. Cage demonstrated that he could evoke a mental representation and simultaneously destroy it in a single creative act. For while realizing his hypothesis—that the 15 stones could have been placed anywhere within the limits of the garden—Cage abolishes the representation. He sought the unconditional indeterminacy of the creative moment, all the while ignoring the determinate indeterminacy separating abstraction and figuration in the object.

***

Simultaneous with his creation of the graphic Where R = Ryoanji series, Cage also produced a series of compositions based on the garden, simply entitled Ryoanji. In each composition of the series, the score is separated into two parts to be played simultaneously: the instrumental sheet, which differs in each version, and the percussion score, which remains constant. The performance instructions of the percussion score state:

At least two only slightly resonant instruments of different material (wood and metal, not metal and metal) played in unison. The playing begins anywhere about two measures before the instrumentalist or vocalist, continuing during silences between two songs or pieces, and ending about two measures after the instrument or voice has stopped. These sounds are the “raked sand” of the garden. They should be played quietly but not as background. They should even be imperceptibly in the foreground. They should have some life (slight changes of imperceptible dynamics) as though the light on them is changing.22

This score is exceptional because it was one of the rare instances of metered pulse in Cage’s later work, indicated by the conventionally notated quarter tones and quarter tone rests. However, the relatively slow tempo (60 BPM, perhaps not coincidentally the slowest normal pulse of a healthy adult) and the long measure (varying from 12 to 15 beats) make the meter almost indistinguishable, as Cage claims: “You can’t, in metrical terms, understand what you’re hearing any more than you can when you listen to ambient sound.”23 Even more exceptional is that the scores are representational: The graphic notations for the glissandi represent the silhouettes of stones, and the percussion score represents the patterned sand or gravel on which the stones are set. The unequal bar lengths in the percussion score thus serve both musical and iconographic purposes: Each quarter tone rest bears a slight resemblance to the wave patterns of the garden at Ryōan-ji—here stylized almost to the point of abstraction—while the percussion score in its totality vaguely resembles the sand patterns of the garden, since when viewed vertically the measures that vary from 12 to 15 beats result in unequal lines, creating “waves” of quarter tones and quarter tone rests. This is a relatively rare instance of conventional notation serving iconic purposes, not unlike poems that are printed in the shape of an object, as in Apollinaire’s Calligrammes. The rhythm is equivocal (based on the difference between bars of 12 to 15 beats, like the ambiguity created by the visibility of only 14 of the 15 stones in the garden), establishing a distortion or transformation of temporality, not unlike the thinning down of time and thickening of space that some claim is particular to the ancient Japanese musical form gagaku, as Ichiyanagi Toshi, a disciple of Cage, suggests: “The sounds are no longer physical as the totality of all their components, pitches, intensities, etc. but they become the time itself of the universe.”24

Figure 3.

Percussion score for John Cage’s Ryoanji. Copyright © 1984 by Henmar Press Inc. C.F. Peters Corporation, Sole Selling Agent. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Figure 3.

Percussion score for John Cage’s Ryoanji. Copyright © 1984 by Henmar Press Inc. C.F. Peters Corporation, Sole Selling Agent. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Close modal

The instrumental part of indeterminate duration has been scored for solo oboe, flute, contrabass, voice, trombone, and cello (unfinished), as well as for an ensemble of double bass, oboe, and voice, with the accompanying percussion part being invariable in all versions. The different versions were composed using the outlines of the same 15 stones utilized as templates for Where R = Ryoanji. We might surmise that Cage produced these templates rather than redrawing the stones for each new composition so as to eliminate the variations that would result from the vagaries of draftsmanship (a lesson he had already learned, mutatis mutandis, as early as Williams Mix), and thus to standardize the series. In each case, the outline of the stone is split horizontally, and only half or less is used. (Cage claims that this is necessary because we read a score linearly from left to right, corresponding to the flow of time, thus an entire circumference would need to be played by two people, respectively following the upper and lower halves of the silhouette. Of course, one can imagine a graphic score that can be read in various directions, but in this regard Cage here remained relatively traditional.) Since a soloist cannot play more than one line at a time, the sounds demanded by overlapping lines need to be prerecorded (except in the ensemble version). The total pitch range of each version is fixed by the register of the instrument(s); the specific notes that begin and end each glissando are randomly determined; and the templates of stone silhouettes that determine the glissandi—set between the randomly determined notes—are also randomly chosen. The result is a series of either microtonal or very fine glissandi—often less than a semi-tone in range—sounding either independently or concatenated to form simple melodies. Since the same limited number of curves are reused, the form is vaguely that of a fugue. One might add that in the vocal version the resultant sounds are not without resemblance to the speechless vocalizations of the percussionists in Noh theater, though Cage never spoke of them in such terms.

Cage begins the performance instructions of the solo scores by explaining that “each two pages are a ‘garden’ of sounds,” and he clearly means this visually, given his claim that “with proportional notation, you automatically produce a picture of what you hear.”25 While the Where R = Ryoanji drawings are simple ground plans, the scores appear more like perspectival projections of the rocks seen against the back wall of the garden. Considered formally and iconographically, we must remember that whether or not Cage randomly selected the specific 15 stones used in these works, they were in any case chosen from Cage’s own collection, which was not assembled randomly but rather according to his specific lithic preferences. One need not go so far as to suggest that the shapes of the stones reveal the form of the soul, but such preferential aesthetic choices do bring a certain psychological dimension to this work, one that is relatively rare in Cage’s corpus. Interesting questions arise concerning the visual and representational appearance of these scores. An obvious question would be to ask why the percussion and instrumental scores are separated. Musically, it would make no difference if the percussion line was printed on the same sheet beneath the instrumental line, or printed on a separate sheet. But the separation is crucial for the iconographic intent: Printing the percussion score separately creates the image of the field of raked sand, while printing a single percussion part as a single line beneath the instrumental part would disrupt rather than enrich the iconographic dimension. (One could imagine the superimposition of the two parts of the score—perhaps using transparencies and colored inks, as Cage had done in past compositions—which would offer a beautiful schematic view of the stones on the raked sand, though it would be all but illegible to the musicians.)

Figure 4.

Flute score for John Cage’s Ryoanji. Copyright © 1984 by Henmar Press Inc. C.F. Peters Corporation, Sole Selling Agent. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Figure 4.

Flute score for John Cage’s Ryoanji. Copyright © 1984 by Henmar Press Inc. C.F. Peters Corporation, Sole Selling Agent. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Close modal
Figure 5.

Allen S. Weiss, template for Ryōan-ji score (composite photo and graphics by Tom Rasky). Note that all 15 stones are visible from this central perspective only because this is a composite photo.

Figure 5.

Allen S. Weiss, template for Ryōan-ji score (composite photo and graphics by Tom Rasky). Note that all 15 stones are visible from this central perspective only because this is a composite photo.

Close modal
Figure 6.

Allen S. Weiss, Ryōan-ji, Op. 1 (2012), for two glissando-producing instruments (graphics by Tom Rasky). Dotted lines indicate simultaneously sounded glissandi.

Figure 6.

Allen S. Weiss, Ryōan-ji, Op. 1 (2012), for two glissando-producing instruments (graphics by Tom Rasky). Dotted lines indicate simultaneously sounded glissandi.

Close modal

In this regard, an intriguing question is why Cage didn’t simply take a schematic drawing of Ryōan-ji—with the stones represented either in overhead outline or in frontal silhouette—and transpose to paper their actual forms and positions in the garden to indicate pitch, duration, and counterpoint. Such an instrumentalization of the garden (in the metaphoric and literal sense) would certainly have suited Cage’s duchampianism, with the garden of Ryōan-ji serving as a musical readymade. While the visual result of this hypothetical score would be reminiscent of the garden, the musical result would be very different from Cage’s actual work.

Visually, perhaps Cage thought that this representational result would be too familiar, though according to a system of aesthetic indifference such as Cage’s, such a critique would be moot. A glance at the stones actually used by Cage might provide an answer: They all have almost perfectly smooth curved outlines, suggesting that the score was conceived from the outset primarily as a work for glissandi, placing it within a long modernist tradition.26 To the contrary, the irregular shapes that would be generated by the actual stones of the garden (whether drawn frontally or from above) reveal diverse curves, steps, and even flat spaces, which would variously translate into glissandi and portamenti, whole-tone, half-tone, and microtonal steps, and even some nearly constant pitches. Consider one stone that is particularly problematic in this regard, since it exhibits two almost perfectly flat tiers: The upper level is ever so slightly sloping, such that to play its outline would produce an ascending tone of such slight pitch variance that it would probably not be heard as a glissando but rather as a mere fluctuation in pitch; as this first tone ends, the pitch would abruptly drop—indicated by the vertical descent to the lower tier of the rock—creating a very distinct interval, with the new lower tone sounding but briefly. This effect is clearly not in the spirit of Cage’s composition. It could be argued—in accordance with the love of dissymmetry, accident, and imperfection at the core of Zen-inspired aesthetics—that just such a single continuous tone set amid the glissandi of the piece would not just be welcome, but in fact stunning. Perhaps Cage wished precisely to avoid such a bravado effect. Or maybe he simply thought that such a compositional procedure would result in too much Ryōan-ji and not enough John Cage.

Figure 7.

Ryōan-ji, flat rock. Photo by Allen S. Weiss.

Figure 7.

Ryōan-ji, flat rock. Photo by Allen S. Weiss.

Close modal

***

In the late 1960s, the avant-garde filmmaker Paul Sharits consulted the I Ching, asking whether he should use chance operations, and was told not to do so.27 I don’t know whether John Cage ever posed the same question to his aleatory muse, but he certainly cheated on her, and occasionally got caught cheating. His last work was directly derived from the cello version of Ryoanji that he was writing for Michael Bach (this version remained unfinished and unpublished). In determining the order and pitch values of the fifth interval in the series, the chance operation generated F# and F#, which should have become the beginning and end points of one of the templates drawn from the stones. Bach abbreviated this on the preliminary sketch of the score with a single F#, and in doing so obviated the logic of Cage’s composition and prefigured a radically different work, one in which authorial control would shift from composer to performer.28 Cage found this F# – F# interval to be uninteresting and wanted to suppress it, perhaps because the two identical notes would suggest a hint of tonality. Since we do not know which pebble template might have been chosen to connect the two F#s, we cannot know the resultant sound, nor the exact reason for its suppression. However, the desire to suppress the F# – F# interval supports the idea that Cage didn’t use the real garden as a template precisely because he didn’t like some of the resultant sounds.

In any case, Michael Bach—in an inspired combination of intuition and misunderstanding—found a fascinating new use value for this note. According to the compositional procedure he should have drawn a line determined by the template of a stone (a glissando) to connect the two F#s, but in fact he only penciled in a single note, perhaps as a shorthand to indicate Cage’s intent to abandon these notes, but certainly as the first glimmer of a very different inspiration. Conflating the two notes of the perfect unison (unison prime) F# – F#′ into a single note, he transferred his interest from the glissando to the note and effectively eliminated the line for the point, and in a subtle way, melody for harmony. In doing so he also shifted emphasis from composition to performance, consequently working out 20 different bowings utilizing a curved bow (permitting all the strings of the cello to be played simultaneously) to produce the F# as 20 different sounds derived from the exploration of partials. The result is that “an ambiguous multiphonic sound develops, which increasingly gains in complexity, the more complicated the derivation of its individual pitches is.”29 These sounds subtly differ from each other in both timbre and pitch, effectively constituting a composition for variants centered on a single note, such that the performance surpasses the composition (the production surpasses the representation) twentyfold. This is a novel mode of producing those “small sounds” so dear to Cage: small not because they need amplification, but because they demand a more acute mode of listening by means of which the very identity and consistency of pitch is challenged, what Michael Bach refers to as “an exploring kind of listening.”30 This procedure is not unlike earlier experiments in microtonal music and just intonation, such as Tony Conrad’s Four Violins (1964), the results of which Conrad described as follows:

Pitched pulses, palpitating beyond rhythm and cascading the cochlea with a galaxy of synchronized partials, reopen the awareness of the sine tone—the element of combinatorial hearing. Together and in pairs in all combinations, the partials combine. The ear responds uniquely. We lived inside the sound, for years. As our precision increased, almost infinitesimal pitch changes became glaring smears across the surface of the sound.31

Such is a manifesto for a new type of listening.

Convinced by Bach’s F# demonstration, Cage began composing One13, for solo cello and three loudspeakers for prerecorded material, and he imagined versions for other instruments. The composition consists of eight discrete notes arranged in linear order, each single note and its reiterations performed through different bowings constituting a unique part of the composition. (The intervals between these eight notes are incidental, if not inconsequential, to the composition; the sequence of notes should thus not be construed to constitute any sort of melody, mode, or scale.) Concerning the musicological implications of this piece, one might draw a parallel with Theodor W. Adorno’s claim, in discussing the particularities of Schoenberg’s polyphony, that “the subjective melodic impulse is dialectically dissolved into its objective multivocal components,”32 and paraphrase this by stating that for Cage—whose distaste for all harmony was confirmed by Schoenberg’s teachings—“the subjective tonal impulse is pragmatically dissolved into its objective harmonic components.” While the One of the title originally marked this composition as part of a series of solo works, it also serendipitously refers to the structure of the work, based on single notes. Unlike the glissandi of Ryoanji, which exist between notes, the sounds of One13 are a series of single notes with their respective reiterations derived from diverse overtones within different chords, each constituting a discrete “song.” Across the reiterations of each note we come to hear not just the overtones of a note, but most crucially the note emerging from the overtones. The relational aspect of musical temperament is abandoned for the sake of discerning the intricacies of harmonics. We must not listen to the differences between notes (as the glissandi inspire us to do), but rather to the complexity within notes, to discover the vast diversity hidden within the supposed unity of a single note. In a structural and sonic sense, the sounds of One13 are more closely related to the percussion ostinato of Ryoanji than to its glissandi, because the percussion is scored for “at least two only slightly resonant instruments of different material” played in unison, suggesting a more profoundly analytic mode of listening that would encompass the complex unification of such unfamiliar timbres.

What would this mean iconographically? Bach makes the name of the garden, the forms of the stones, and the glissandi of Cage’s composition all disappear, so we are confronted with a situation not unlike that of the famous philosophical conundrum: If one first replaces the blade of an axe, and then replaces the handle, is it still the same axe? In a general sense, one might speak of exoteric and esoteric knowledge, of ostensible and secret perspectives, of conventional and experimental listening, of shallow and deep musicology. More specifically, the evolution of the composition Ryoanji into One13 entails the move from considerations of relation (between the pitches at the beginning and end of each glissando line and the differences between the sundry arcs of the glissandi themselves, as well as the counterpoint between the percussion and instrumental parts) to a focus on the complexity of singularities (the unique note and the chords from which the numerous derivations are derived). If a single exceptional stone can all by itself constitute a landscape, why can’t a single note or chord constitute a composition?33 Furthermore, as the ancients have taught us, a rock is indeed a “stable entity,” yet it must be represented “as mobile as breath.”34 The transformation of the glissandi of Ryoanji into the single notes of One13 stresses the role of listening as an analytic procedure. Each note of the composition is experienced not merely as a determinate pitch, but rather as a derivation from complex harmonics. As we listen for that F# (and for the other notes in their turn) within the changing harmonic patterns created by the extended techniques used on the cello, our expanded mode of listening effects a sort of disintegration of the chords into their component partials, among which we finally discern the sought-after note.

The relation between iconophilia (love of the stones) and iconoclasm (the Zen spirit) creates a conceptual antinomy and an aesthetic dynamism that only deepens our experience of such gardens. Iconographically, the concept of One13 would be tantamount to examining each of the individual stones in a garden, and then reducing them to gravel to further the investigation. This suggests a new way of studying the garden of Ryōan-ji, and dry Japanese gardens in general, since missing from most English-language studies of the Zen garden are considerations of the different grades of sand, pebbles, and gravel used to represent water: Fine gravel may indicate a running stream, a larger and rougher grade may depict the white-water rapids beneath a waterfall, large black stones may indicate deep pools, and so forth, as illustrated in the garden of Obai-in (Kyoto).

Figure 8.

Obai-in, waterfall rock and dry stream. Photo by Allen S. Weiss.

Figure 8.

Obai-in, waterfall rock and dry stream. Photo by Allen S. Weiss.

Close modal

Thus Michael Bach performs a decidedly iconoclastic operation upon Cage’s fundamentally iconophilic score: by reducing the outlines of the pebbles to a point, thus destroying the icons, and by obliterating the graphic and representational qualities of the score, insofar as its reduction to single notes visually reverts to the register of conventional scoring. Though Bach shares Cage’s misconception about one stone always being invisible in the garden, he draws a correct deduction from the necessity of multiple viewpoints: “that sensory impression and reality are not congruent, that the apperception of reality succeeds only partially and in an incomplete way.”35 He concludes that the apparently static must give way to mobility, thus time, movement, and change of perspective are of the essence. The single note reveals a great multiplicity, unfolding its particular and increasingly complex harmonics over a very brief temporal span. Not only does the point become an oscillating line over time, but paradoxically, the point may be richer than the line.

***

Of course, the destiny of every stone is to crumble into sand, though the temporality of a stone is radically different from that of a musician. The only way out of time is death, at least if one does not believe in reincarnation. One13 is co-composed by Michael Bach, who completed the work after John Cage’s death. There is a tradition in Japan for a poet to write a death poem (jisei). When encouraged to do so by one of his disciples, the great poet Bashō responded by saying that any of his poems would suffice, but he too finally wrote one specifically for that purpose. I would suggest that Cage’s last work, One13, is a fitting if ironic death poem. Here, Cage returns to the equal tempered scale with which he began his career—one dedicated to overcoming the limitations of the tonal system—only to finally reveal its hidden secret: the profoundly complex musicality of a single note. But do we not require his entire corpus to arrive at this truth?

An earlier version of this paper was presented as a keynote address to “The Future of Cage: Credo” colloquium at the University of Toronto (October 2012) by the invitation of T. Nikki Cesare Schotzko; my presentation was accompanied by a performance of John Cage’s Ryoanji, with Alex Waterman performing the double bass part transposed for cello and David Schotzko on percussion, followed by Alex Waterman performing John Cage’s One13. The first part of this paper is derived from my Zen Landscapes: Perspectives in Japanese Gardens and Ceramics (London: Reaktion Books, 2013); the latter part is a distillation of a continuing dialogue concerning these works with Alex Waterman, to whom I am deeply indebted.

1.

Teiji Itoh, Space and Illusion in the Japanese Garden (New York, Tokyo: Weatherhill; Kyoto: Tankosha, 1973), 48.

2.

François Cheng, Souffle-Esprit: Textes théoriques chinois sur l’art pictural (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2006 [1989]), 69–70, 129; see also François Cheng, Vide et plein: Le langage pictural chinois (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1991), 133.

3.

Cited in David A. Slawson, Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens: Design Principles, Aesthetic Values (Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1987), 146–47.

4.

Cited in Shoji Yamada, Shots in the Dark: Japan, Zen and the West, trans. Earl Hartman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009), 167.

5.

Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild (Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint Press, 1990), 108.

6.

Cheng, Souffle-esprit, 174.

7.

Cheng, Souffle-esprit, 166.

8.

Cited in Slawson, Secret Teachings, 74.

9.

The great modernist garden designer Shigemori Mirei, for example, has created gardens that are ideally viewed from above, such as the Garden of the Peaceful Heart at Kōsei-ji, where the rocks and moss form the kanji for the word “heart’ 心 (kokoro) and the raked gravel simulates watermarks on paper; another of his sites designed specifically to be viewed from the sky is the garden for the castle of Kishiwada-jo near Osaka, created in 1953. See Christian Tschumi, Mirei Shigemori: Modernizing the Japanese Garden (Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press 2005), 34–43.

10.

Maurice Pinguet, “Paul Claudel exégète du Japon [1982], in Michaël Ferrier, ed., Le Texte Japon (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 2009), 81.

11.

See Erwin Panofsky, Perspective as Symbolic Form, trans. Christopher S. Wood (New York: Zone Books, 1991 [1927]); and Allen S. Weiss, Mirrors of Infinity: The French Formal Garden and 17th-Century Metaphysics (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995).

12.

Of course airplanes and Google Earth have somewhat transformed this situation, but the effect of such long-distance views on the experience and imagination of gardens still needs to be examined.

13.

One sees people within the garden in Edo period images, and it appears that one was able to walk among the stones of Ryōan-ji as late as the 1930s, but there is little documentation to support this.

14.

John Cage, cited in David Revill, The Roaring Silence (New York: Arcade Publishing, 1992), 274.

15.

John Cage, A Year from Monday (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1963), 137.

16.

For an example of a mountain richly metaphorized, see my discussion of René Char’s simile, “Le Mont Ventoux, miroir des aigles, était en vue” [Mont Ventoux, mirror of the eagles, was in sight] from his poem “Le Thor,’ in Allen S. Weiss, The Wind and the Source: In the Shadow of Mont Ventoux (Albany: SUNY Press, 2005), 49–50.

17.

See Allen S. Weiss, “Empty Words,” liner notes for the CD John Cage, Empty Words (Parte III) (Ampere 6, 2000).

18.

Joan Retallack, Musicage (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1996), 243.

19.

Retallack, Musicage, 236.

20.

Revill, The Roaring Silence, 119.

21.

Cheng, Souffle-esprit, 58.

22.

John Cage, Ryoanji for Percussion (New York: Henmar Press, 1983).

23.

Cage, cited in Revill, The Roaring Silence, 279.

24.

Cited in Ryosuke Shiina, “Le paysage japonais à travers Cage,” in John Cage; Revue d’Ésthétique nos. 13–14–15 (1987–88), 432.

25.

Cited in Retallack, Musicage, 243.

26.

These stones are illustrated in Retallack, Musicage, 241, and Cage specifically stresses the importance of the curved lines derived from them, (286). On the glissando in modernism, see Allen S. Weiss, Varieties of Audio Mimesis (Los Angeles: Errant Bodies Press, 2008), 70–87. The differentiation between the terms glissando and portamento is a source of continual confusion, as the former has for the most part replaced the latter to indicate a continuous transition between tones.

27.

Paul Sharits, “-UR(i)N(ul)LS: TREAM: S: S: ECTION: S: SECTION:-S: S: ECTIONED(A)(lysis)JO: ‘1968–70’,” Film Culture 65–66 (1978): 22.

28.

See “Prefatory Remarks by Michael Bach for RYOANJI and ONE13,” John Cage and Michael Bach Bachtischa, ONE13 for Cello with Curved Bow, trans. Sabine Feisst (New York: C. F. Peters Corporation, 1992). One might think that Cage might have rejected the F# because it produces a wolf tone on the cello, but Bach makes it clear that it was not the particular note that was unacceptable, but the F# – F# unission.

29.

“Prefatory Remarks by Michael Bach…” ii.

30.

“Prefatory Remarks by Michael Bach…,” ii.

31.

Tony Conrad, “LYssophobia: On FOUR VIOLINS,” liner notes to Early Minimalism (Table of the Elements AS33), 23–24. I will hazard the supposition that such musical experimentation is considerably more exciting for the musicians involved than for most listeners, even if only because most of the latter have yet to appropriately train their ears to these new musical forms, but more generally because these new forms are of an austerity that does not accord with most contemporary musical preferences; a more cynical statement would be that these are experiments, and not finished works, though Cage and Bach would certainly contest such claims in regard to the compositions here analyzed.

32.

Theodor W. Adorno, “Arnold Schoenberg 1874–1951,” in Prisms, trans. Samuel and Shierry Weber (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1988), 157.

33.

On Chinese scholars’ rocks that represent entire landscapes, see Robert D. Mowry, ed., Worlds Within Worlds (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Art Museums, 1997).

34.

Cheng, Souffle-esprit, 76.

35.

“Prefatory Remarks by Michael Bach…,” ii. Bach’s claim recalls Edmund Husserl’s phenomenological notion of perceptual adumbration.