Sunday

In A Landscape

I watched a maple leaf make its slow red way to the ground this morning. Without a wind to rush the leaf, the leaf twirled and spun slowly.  Floating backside down the leaf upon landing became one of  the very first to dot the grassy green of the late August ground.  And there it lies, waiting for others who will together create the vast blanket we call fall.

 Does anyone understand the modernist musician and composer John Cage? This was the question a friend asked not long ago. Her question may have been rhetorical but worth thinking about all the same.

Slowly and serenely, his piece In a Landscape describes the falling leaf I saw this morning as well as anything I know.  I don't think the music creates an understanding of the landscape, I think it transcribes an experience of the landscape.

An understanding implies, by loose definition, an application of concepts and categories to an experience or thing and I don't think Cage was especially interested in either.  I don't think he was interested in confining his work to the limits of rational intelligence.  So perhaps my response to my friend's question would be that no one understands, by those terms, John Cage.

I could understand the leaf's fall aerodynamically.  I could understand the process of photosynthesis that first created the green leaf.  I could then understand that when the green-making chlorophyll has come to an end the red and yellow of the leaf are revealed.  I could understand that the food- making process of the tree has come to an end with the shedding of the leaf.  All good things, these understandings, but none speak to that thing I call my soul.

And my soul, she is indifferent to definition.  She does not care for rational thought one way or another.  The dance that creates the music of a thing is her primary concern.  And it was with my soul I joined the leaf that fell this morning.  I joined the dance of the leaf and heard the music that came from that dance.

Everything else, the rational understanding of process, comes after the dance. After the music. In the dance was life itself. The very best of artists, I think, see the dance and become part of it.  They hear the music the dance creates.  John Cage...In a Landcape .  I thank him.  And I thank my friend for asking.