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Interview with John Cage, 1984

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Interview with John Cage,1984

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Interview with John Cage, 1984
Cunningham, Merce (Creator)
Cage, John (Interviewee)
Branca, Glenn, 1948-2018 (Associated name)

Merce Cunningham Video Archive

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1984
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZIDF 6764
Composers -- United States
Modern dance
Content: Title provided by cataloger, based on original container label.
Venue: Recorded 1984. New York City.
Acquisition: Gift; Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation, 2011-2012.
Physical Description
Extent: 1 videocassette (VHS) (95 min.) : sound, color ; 1/2 in.
An interview with John Cage from 1984, conducted in his New York apartment by a pair of University of Michigan student interviewers, whose identities are unknown as of this writing. They appear to be music and composition graduate students. Cage begins by talking about his childhood and early years in the Ann Arbor area, and speaks about his father. He then discusses the poetry reading he gave in Ann Arbor, and the influences that bear on his poetry, along with the ways his practice as a Zen Buddhist influences his art (2:52). This shifts into a consideration of the use of chance operations and Asian philosophy in Cage's creative process (6:00). The differences and commonalities between Cage's theatrical. musical and poetical works, focusing particularly on his use of language and sound to engender response, are then discussed, shading into musings on the contrast between the contrasting ways in which Western and Eastern audiences perceive identical works on a culturally shaped cognitive level (13:50). Following an abrupt edit and brief video dropout, Cage and his interlocutors discuss the nature of want and the genesis of creative inspiration on a spiritual and psychological level , with emphasis on the difference between controlled and freely anarchic hierarchies within an artistic ensemble. They especially debate the work of composer Glenn Branca (22:20). They then talk about the role of confusion versus clarity in terms of audience receptivity, then detouring into an exchange about the use of sound and tone once more (38:00). Cage then discusses the composition/performance he's currently working on (possibly the same year's A Collection of Rocks, though this is not certain) (43:00). Cage then talks about the method by which he considers a work to be 'finished', as well as considering the general impossibility of offering advice on the improvisatory creative process to others, which flows into a deeper investigation of the nature and uses of improvisation in art, especially as made possible by then emerging video art movements and software programs (48:00). Following what appears to be the end of the interview, additional footage appears in which Cage further discusses his relationship with audiences and their patterns of response and resistance to his and others' challenging work (71:15). Interview ends abruptly at 1:33:00.
Type of Resource
Moving image
RLIN/OCLC: 980347886
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b21207925
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): d9b88d60-771d-0136-5642-035e6a9556b3
Rights Statement
This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

Item timeline of events

  • 1984: Created
  • 2018: Digitized
  • 2020: Found by you!
  • 2021

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with John Cage, 1984" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1984.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with John Cage, 1984" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed June 4, 2020.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (1984). Interview with John Cage, 1984 Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (moving image) Interview with John Cage, 1984, (1984)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=June 4, 2020 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with John Cage, 1984