Welcome to another episode of The VW Years, greg.org’s ongoing mission to seek out firsthand accounts of John Cage and Merce Cunningham’s VW Bus.
These are some mentions of John Cage in The Living Theatre: Art, Exile, and Outrage,, John Tytell’s 1995 history/biography of Living Theatre founders Judith Malina and Julian Beck, which were compiled by Josh Ronsen and posted to silence-digest, a Cage-related mailing list in 1998:
“At the end of September, they visited Cage and Cunningham who had expressed an interest in sharing a place that could be used for concerts and dance recitals. Gracious, unassuming, the two men lived in a large white room, bare except for matting, a marble slab on the floor for a table, and long strips of foam rubber on the walls for seating. The environment reflected their minimalist aesthetic. Cage proposed to stage a piece by Satie that consisted of 840 repetitions of a one-minute composition. He advised them not to rely on newspaper advertising, but to use instead men with placards on tall stilts and others with drums.” –pg 72
“the only person Judith admitted caring about was John Cage, “mad and unquenchable” with his “hearty, heartless grin.” With Julian, she visited Cage in Stoney Point in the Hudson Valley. … Julian thought Cage was the “chain breaker among the shackled who love the sound of their chains.” Cage collected wild mushrooms, which Julian interpreted as a tribute to his reliance on chance as much as to his exquisite taste. … [Paul] Williams wanted to help them find a new location that Cage and Cunningham could share with The Living Theatre.” -pg 121
“In the middle of 1957, they saw Cunningham dance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music to Cage’s music. At a party afterward, C&C laughed all night like “two mischievous kids who had succeeded in some tremendous boyish escapade.”” -pg 125
“[they] visited Cage in Stoney Point, where they made strawberry jam and gathered mint, wild watercress, and asparagus for dinner. Feeling a surge of confidence in his own writing, he [Julian] gave Cage a group of poems to set to music.” -pg 128
“With Judith, Julian, Cunningham, and Paul Williams, John Cage drove from “columned loft to aerie garage” in his Volkswagen bus, smiling despite the traffic and the fact that their search was now in its 4th month. Finally, they found an abandoned building, formally a department store on 14th st and 6th ave, which Williams declare would be suitable for sharing as a theatre and dance space.” – pg 129
“Early in December, with Cage’s assistance, [Cunningham] moved some of his backdrops into the space. Cage brought with him a variety of percussion instruments–he owned more than 300 at that time–which he donated to the theatre. Julian thought there was a distance about Cage that prevented intimacy and the fullest communication, but he felt Cage’s gift was a real sign of the artistic support that would be crucial to the success of The Living Theatre.” -pg 140