How To Get Out Of The Cage: A Year With John Cage

Album title:
How To Get Out Of The Cage: A Year With John Cage
John Cage
Documentary By Frank Sheffer
Catalogue Number:
BBC Music Magazine
How To Get Out Of The Cage: A Year With John Cage


This splendid DVD comprises a 56-minute documentary about John Cage, shot in 1987, along with five experimental films, one of which was made by Cage himself. The documentary was re-edited this year to celebrate Cage’s 100th birthday. It records the composer’s activities in five cities around the world and includes footage from the performance of Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegan’s Wake given at the Albert Hall. The film begins in Cologne with Cage telling stories featuring Erik Satie and the Zen Buddhist teacher DT Suzuki, two people who had a profound influence on him. Throughout the film Cage continues to tell stories, as he did, explaining his ideas, philosophies and working methods with great clarity, humility and humour.

The flow is occasionally interrupted with shots of the composer talking for very brief periods, determined by chance operations, on subjects that are thrown up also using chance operations. ‘Four seconds on harmony’ [Pause. Cage looks down moving his mouth in thought. Starts stopwatch. Looks up.] ‘It’s a way of gluing things [pause] together.’ [Looks away. Nods head, satisfied.] These micro lectures are an utter delight: intensely engaging and extremely illuminating they punctuate the action beautifully.

The five experimental films, dating from 1988 to 2011, complement the documentary very well. Chessfilmnoise, directed by Cage using chance operations, records a game of chess shot from above. Nopera involves the composer playing chess while talking about an idea for an opera involving songs composed by the artist Marcel Duchamp. All of the films on this DVD will appeal to the aficionado as well as those seeking an insight into the ideas and the music of one of the most adventurous, imaginative and innovative composers of our time.

Robert Worby

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