(Roughly) Daily

The Arts on Television…

In the late 50s and early 60s, before Public Television found its footing, it was up to commercial broadcasters in the U.S. to provide TV coverage of and exposure to the Arts. Shows like Omnibus and Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts carried most of that that freight, but were tucked away in odd weekend hours.

Still, lest we forget, the commercial end of commercial TV also did its share. The ever-amazing WFMU reminds us that in 1960, the popular game show I’ve Got a Secret featured the inimitable composer John Cage.

At the time, Cage was teaching Experimental Composition at New York City’s New School. Eight years beyond “4:33,” he was (as our smoking MC [Gary Moore] informs us) the most controversial figure in the musical world at that time. His first performance on national television was originally scored to include five radios, but a union dispute on the CBS set prevented any of the radios from being plugged in to the wall. Cage gleefully smacks and tosses the radios instead of turning them on and off.

While treating Cage as something of a freak, the show also treats him fairly reverentially, cancelling the regular game show format to allow Cage the chance to perform his entire piece.

See Cage perform “Water Walk” on WFMU’s blog, here. (And do take their advice, and follow that with a click through on the link toward the end of the item to Frank Zappa performing on The Steve Allen Show…)

John Cage

“The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason.” —John Cage.

As we renew our friendship with freeform, we might pen a birthday poem to Ben Jonson, the Renaissance poet and dramatist, born on this date in 1572. Best remembered as the author of plays like Volpone and The Alchemist, his best known line is surely one from his poem “To Celia”: “Drink to me only with thine eyes.”

Jonson was a ferocious rival of Shakespeare; but when the Bard died, wrote a gracious encomium: “He was not of an age, but for all time”… Same to ya!

Ben Jonson

Ben Jonson

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 11, 2008 at 1:01 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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