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Empty Words: Writings '73-'78 Paperback – February 15, 1979

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“John Cage is one of those few contemporaries who do important work in more than one art…a master of several arts, a slave to none.”—Richard Kostelanetz, The New York Times Book Review


“For those who’ve savored Cage’s previous books, Silence (1961), A Year From Monday (1967), and M (1973), no further introduction is necessary. Whether sharing with us details of meals he’s enjoyed on tour, transforming texts from Thoreau’s Journal by I Ching operations, or digging ‘mesostics’ on James Joyce’s name out of Finnegans Wake, he’ll keep you fascinated, exasperated, or amused, depending on your reaction to this sort of thing. There are only two essays on ‘music’ in the book—but then, to Cage, everything is music. Recommended for freewheeling art/music/poetry collections.”—Library Journal

From the Publisher

7 x 8 1/4 trim. 65 drawings. LC 78-27212
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 199 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan; 1st edition (February 15, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819560677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819560674
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,368,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on May 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Cage was busy during the 1970s, and his book Empty Words reflects that busy-ness in ways obvious and hidden. As a book of essays on music, it's a satisfying and provocative read. As poetry, that depends on what you make of his procedural driven work in the field, and also how much you like what seems today like frankly occasional poems, the bread and butter notes of another, more polite age. Cage interestingly foregrounds his lack of fixed address, what one might call his transnationality, early on, in the epigraph, which involves a typically charming anecdote among houseguests, one from the US, one from Melbourne, who find themselves at the same breakfast table in Paris. As many attest, Cage was an enchanting conversationalist, the equal of Wilde or Lytton Strachey, but perhaps with more of a Buddhist pacific nature. In Empty Words we find him singing for his supper over and over again, and like Coleridge's Table Talk, there's something sort of sad about him having to amuse the rich and curry their favor, but he also felt comfortable among them, could let his hair down to a certain extent. It was thoughtful of his patrons to give him an annual stipend so he didn't have to work, but it made him into a pet. Someone is probably doing an analysis right now of Cage and capital, but it speaks between the lines of every other mesostic on display here.

"The Future of Music" is Cage at his happiest, an essay in which he asks us to consider what is missing from today's music (well, the music of the mid 1970s).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are familiar with John Cage's thinking you will enjoy and understand this book as well as his other numerous writings, and fantastic music. If you are new to Cage's work, well, be patient and try to follow. Perhaps some previous reading of his poetry and writings will guide you more towards this book. I am a fan and admirer of Cage's work, so I loved it.
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