Program Notes

On the Steps of the H. Melville House

John Holland


Jasper Johns - White Flag (encaustic and collage on canvas) 1955

John Holland

Quiet Music for Small Ensemble (1975)

Players are asked to create short phrases or sound-groups, independently of one another, which are quiet or reposed in character:

From the score: “The sounds should emerge from a sense of the deep vastness of space, with particular reference to the giant bubble-shaped voids which define the large-scale structure of space and occupy much of the observable universe.” *

* (Voids in space extend for millions of light-years in every direction and contain very little matter and energy compared to thin regions at the edges of voids where dense matter in the form of great clusters of galaxies exist. The Milky Way galaxy is part of a large supercluster of galaxies which is located at the surface edge of one of the great voids.)

– J. H.

John Cage 2

John Cage

Lecture: Where Are We Going? And What Are We doing? (1961)

‘ It is at this crossroads that we must change direction, if, that is, we are going where we are going. (I know perfectly well I’m wandering but I try to see what there is to see and my eyes are not as good as they were but they’re improving.) Nothing special. Nothing predetermined. Just something useful to set the thing going.

The text consists of four separate dialogues, each one a sort of stream of consciousness writing that does not really stick to any particular idea, but instead flows seamlessly. The instructions are for a performer to read one of the four lines accompanied by tape recordings of the other three (s/he may choose any one of the four).

The back cover to Silence has a wonderful image of Cage at his drafting table at Wesleyan University, where he was in residence in 1960, and where he redrafted and assembled Silence. “Where Are We Going?” was clearly written at this desk; there are many references to the space in the stream of consciousness sections, including Cage’s constant complaining about the air conditioning, which he was not used to, and of the maid coming in to clean the space.

– Richard H. Brown

Lecture written on Cage's draft table at Wesleyan U. in 1961

Lecture written on Cage’s draft table at Wesleyan University in 1961