Monday, August 29, 2005

Jascha Kessler

I was at Black Mountain College in the summer of 1948, when Cage and Cunningham were teaching there, and I saw the work they prepared and performed. Quite a number of later very famous people were there that summer, the deKoonings, Isaac Rosenberg, and I forget others I never followed much later. I alluded to it a bit in my novel, RAPID TRANSIT:1948 Published about 3 years ago, by You can find out some other things of mine from

Jascha KesslerProfessor of English & Modern LIterature, UCLATelephone/Facsimile: 530.684.5120

Thursday, August 25, 2005


I’m not really a musician. I worked for the SoHo Baroque Opera Company for 25 years. When I studied the flute, I drove my teacher crazy because I prefer musical theory to tooting scales. I wrote the libretto for Elodie Lauten’s opera Orfreo. Oh yeah, and I married a flutist. I decided it would be a neat project if we mastered John Cage’s Three Pieces for Flute Duet. Jane had been a professional flutist for 12 years (flutists think flautists are pretentious). I often listen to Paul Zukofsky play Cage because I like Paul's father's poetry. Cage's work for violins strains the ears worse than Bartok. After serious study, Jane announced Three Pieces for Flute Duet were too damn difficult. Jane's cousin June was dating James Galway. He could do it, she said, with Rampal. Cage’s music tests the performer's limits.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ray Johnson

War of the Worlds

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Despair in the Age of Bush

But is anomie some poor French notion for why we Americans die? Ray Johnson drowned himself. Why do young Moslems blow themselves up? During the period of the Contending States, the Chinese burned their classics, including the I Ching. The poet C’hu P’ing, in despair at the state of the culture, drowned himself. Every year the Chinese commemorate this act with the Dragonboat Festival. They search for C’hu P’ing’s body in every stream and river.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Ray Johnson suggested that letters are better than talk. I never taped Ray either. Cage was a better writer than poets I did interview. Cage began his public life as a lecturer. His anecdotes were Aesopian. Put down your cross, take off your shoes, and walk -- or swim.

August Comte threw himself into the Seine. The water in his ears rang, perhaps a premonition of church bells. Comte was rescued, and later, of course, invented sociology.

Walking along the Hudson one morning I encountered a scene of ambulances and police cars and out on the water police boats illuminated by the searchlights of two helicopters -- and an eyewitness. I watched divers in wetsuits lift a stretcher out of the water into the hands of Emergency Service Workers who then rushed the victim on a gurney to their waiting ambulance. They dashed off, sirens blaring. The poor man, dragged from the Hudson at 5:00 AM, according to the eyewitness, was a homeless man who jumped into the Hudson to end it all. The eyewitness had phoned 911. The homeless man had “clearly succeeded,” said the eyewitness -- unlike Comte. Or, taking the longer view, he had clearly failed -- unlike Comte.

One does not go to Paris to see the Seine. Does one go to Naples to die? Emile Durkheim, who taught at the Sorbonne and held the first chair in the social sciences in France, remains best known for his book Le Suicide. Some people commit suicide out of altruism, he said; these include soldiers and martyrs. Islamic suicide bombers clearly view themselves as such martyrs. Others commit suicide because they’re isolated and cut off from family, friends and society. A third group is driven to suicide by anomie, by a changing society that leaves many individuals with no role or morale. Virginia Woolf drowned herself, out of anomie, not in the Seine but the Thames. Westerners think Islam suffers from such anomie.

Suicidal anomie probably claim the inventor of Correspondance (sic) Art, my colleague, Ray Johnson, in Sag Harbor, New York. He jumped off a bridge in January and swam off to his death by drowning. Ray and I had made John Cage shoes.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Macrobiotic Cuisine

Macrobiotic cuisine is healthy, tasty and Taoist. John Cage hoped it would prolong his life; perhaps it did. He died 12 August 1992. The Kushi Institute offers interesting courses in macrobiotic cuisine and living. The Kushis unfortunately had to close their New York Institute, but I believe their Beckett, Massachusetts, operation still functions. The cookbooks are quite valuable.