New John Cage Composition Discovered and Performed — and It’s Not Just Silence


Artists leave notes for ideas everywhere: napkins, dinner menus, their wrists, your wrists, but seldom do you hear of an artist leaving notes — or, even, full compositions — mixed into the papers of their peers or students. Yet that’s just what John Cage did back in 1978, when he visited James Tenney and left a sheet of paper containing, in full, a typically minimalist piece called “All Sides of the Small Stone.” It went undiscovered for 38 years, found finally in December of last year. It was performed last week.

The piece of paper was discovered by Tenney’s widow, Lauren Pratt, who recognized the writing as Cage’s. “I could recognize that hand. It looks like John Cage’s hand. We’d never seen [the score]. If Jim knew about it, he would tell people. But he never told me.” As The Guardian reports, the piece was performed at L.A. arts center Redcat.

As for the piece itself, it wasn’t any kind of silent experimentation, such as Cage’s most famous work, “4’33,”” but was instead centered around crescendoing and diminishing piano notes, as arranged and performed by Mark Menzies and a number of jazz musicians. It lasted for 10 minutes, but the duration was completely up to interpretation, so, if they’d wanted it to, they could’ve performed it all the way up until now, or perhaps into eternity. Which isn’t really practical, but is definitely appropriate for John Cage, who died in 1992 but is still, obviously, having a huge impact on the music of today.