January 27, 2012

Has Erik Satie Been Performed On US Network Television Since 1963?

This 1963 episode of I've Got A Secret pops up periodically. From this week on Boing Boing to Alex Ross's 2007 blog post searching for Karl Schenzer.

And it is, indeed, pretty interesting. John Cale was recently arrived in New York City--Ross notes that he got a ride down from Tanglewood in Iannis Xenakis's car--and still a couple of years away and a stint under LaMonte Young's sway from forming the Velvet Underground. John Cage enlisted him and some other sympathetic pianists to perform Vexations, an epic 1949 composition by Erik Satie, for the first time. That was Cale's secret. Schenzer's was that he alone stayed for the entire 18-hour performance.

Of course, Cage himself had appeared on I've Got A Secret in 1960, giving a raucous rendition of his composition, Water Walk, while dressed, typically, like a Methodist minister.

Three years later, Cale and Schenzer also exude a buttoned-up, Cageian seriousness, but what caught my attention was Schenzer's namecheck of the concert's sponsor, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, which Cage and Jasper Johns had just launched.

By 1963, I guess these folks were becoming better known, and certain of them, particularly Johns and Rauschenberg, were selling a fair amount of artwork. Yet as soon as they had two nickels to rub together, these artists were using the money to support and propagate the work of their fellow artists.

And it really amazes me to think that the cultural factions of the time were still so close together that this avant garde crew could turn up on a network TV game show. John Cage may have turned up at some point in the intervening 30 years, but it's very easy for me to imagine that the first mention of Erik Satie on CBS was also his last.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: January 27, 2012.

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