John Cage, the alchemist of silence first went to Japan in 1962 on the invitation of Yoko Ono’s then-husband Toshi Ichiyanagi. Cage had already been studying Zen Buddhism under the tutelage of D.T. Suzuki and was thrilled at the opportunity to visit the birthplace of the philosophy which he drew so much inspiration from, not to mention the fact that his ideas had been receiving more coverage in Japan than they were in the US. It seems that this visit to Japan had as much influence on Cage as he had on its vanguard artists.
Of all the places he visited on that first trip to Japan, the one that had the most resounding influence, one place that he kept referring back to in his work and writings, is the temple of Ryoan-ji in Kyoto. The 15th century temple is the distillation of Japanese Zen Buddhism, particularly the famous rock garden with its skillfully groomed sand and carefully placed rocks, of which only 14 are visible; the 15th can only be seen when one reaches enlightenment. In a photo taken during his first visit to Ryoanji Cage is seen from behind sitting, waiting, watching, thinking on the worn wooden steps in front of the rock garden. Appropriately, the photo is silent, a sonic emptiness that approximates the Zen concept of ‘ma’ (emptiness), which is central to the experience one has in the presence of this barren garden. Nowadays the silence of the garden is punctuated regularly by an automated announcement asking you to be quiet, strangely adding technological quotation marks around the silence, but somehow keeping with the spirit of the space.
It is in the memory of John Cage and the victims that were silenced by the recent earthquake in Japan that we ask you to download one minute of silence and wherever you are, whatever you are doing pause and experience ‘ma’.
ALL PROCEEDS FROM THIS RECORDING GO TO THE RED CROSS JAPAN EARTHQUAKE/ASIA-PACIFIC TSUNAMI FUND.
download mp3 $4.99*
*includes an A3 size print ready poster
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