Poetry News

John Cage predicts the internet

By Harriet Staff

The John Cage Trust posted a note bemoaning the lack of available e-publications of Cage’s work. They reproduce a nice quote from Cage, from 1965, about the future of publication:

“Yet with the number of people who work now -- the number of composers, the number of authors, and so on -- has vastly increased over the 19th century; but the number of publishers has not increased. The result is that you have traffic problems, so you have the kind of problems that all large cities encounter with automobile traffic. And I hear, where I go now, that in the future we may expect that private traffic in large cities will be forbidden. It may then equally be forbidden to produce a book that would require people to distribute it, but it will not be forbidden, certainly, to send information by electronic media throughout the world."

The question is: where was he going that he heard that all private traffic would be forbidden? A good reminder that 60s techno-optimism was cut with a heavy dose of paranoia. Anyway, the good news:

Wesleyan University Press, Cage's stalwart principal publisher for now 50 years, is hard at work with renderings of their entire Cage catalog into electronic form. But, here as elsewhere in the workaday world, Cage poses challenges: Cage's texts are anything but e-reader friendly, so publication (launch) dates are still uncertain.

Originally Published: February 28th, 2011