Michael Benson on Sat, 6 Jul 2002 16:36:52 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Does John Cage have a copyright on recorded

All this absence of silence about Cage's presence of silence reminds me of a
line by I think it was Frank O'Hara, writing about a recently dead friend:
"But will the earth be as full / as life was full / of him?" Cage's silence
is specifically Cage's silence, and can't be stolen for use on another
record, because of the presence of his idea -- in other words, of him --
filling that pause. The pause is there due to his will, and that's what
makes it "his." On the other hand the Cage estate's lawyers, if I understand
correctly, aren't just taking his "ownership" literally but are
transposing -- are _inserting_ -- Cage's presence into the silence that
exists on another recording. So you could make the case that Cage's lawyers,
in the absence of Cage, are taking part in the work itself, a work of
absence and presence, but through a strategy of territorial expansion; by
asserting that Cage's absence of sound, and presence in that absence, is
alive and breathing on another record (is living in the Sudetenland, which
is ours?). So they are the instrument whereby Cage's silence is attempting
to colonize a neighboring silence, and for a profit. It's Cage's estate, in
other words, which has "sampled" Cage, not the offending party that risked
inserting (their own) silence in their own recording.

Interestingly, there are at least six CDs sitting on my own shelf where the
musicians have inserted a long gap, sometimes as long as eight minutes,
betwen what's listed as the last track on the back and a surprise last
track. The idea obviously being to spring out of the gathered silence and
surprise the listener, who has meanwhile forgotten that a CD is still on,
with a coda piece of music. Why doesn't that silence merit legal attention?
Because it's not labeled? Because it exists relative to a different

If Cage falls in the woods, and nobody's there to hear it, does it make his
absence of sound?


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