Monday, May 14, 2007


I was always shy about talking to John Cage -- he was, after all, someone of my grandparents' generation, and I seldom imagined having anything to say that would be worth bothering him. When N. O. Brown invited me to join Cage and himself for a walk in the woods above Santa Cruz, that's all I did: walk, keeping enough distance so as to stay out of their chat. My first actual conversation with Cage took place during the Cabrillo Festival in the summer of 1981. I picked up my ringing telephone and immediately recognized that voice with its almost-absent fundamental asking ''Gordon?''. Somehow I put one and one together -- someone with the phone numbers of both Gordon and myself had mixed them up and given mine to Cage -- and very quickly answered: ''Mr. Cage, this is actually a wrong number, but I just happen to have Gordon Mumma's number''. He answered: ''then it isn't a wrong number at all.'' At some point, I did ask Cage about possible composition teachers; he suggested Lou Harrison, Gordon Mumma, and Alvin Lucier. (I also asked him about studying with La Monte Young and he asked whether I was religious.) Needless to say, Cage's advice was sound, and I took it.

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