If anybody is sleepy, let him go to sleep …

… some notes on Lecture on Nothing – an impressionistic summary of John Cage’s brilliant text

    • Nothing more then nothing can be said.
    • We make our lives by what we love.
    • Being American, having been trained to be sentimental, I fought for noises … when the war came along, I decided to use only quiet sounds. There seemed to me to be no truth, no good, in anything big.
    • Somebody asked Debussy how he wrote music. He said: “I take all the tones there are, leave out he one’s I don’t want, and use all the others”. Satie said: “When I was young, people told me; you’ll see when you’re fifty years old. Now I’m fifty. I’ve seen nothing”.
    • Slowly as the talk goes on, we are getting nowhere – and that is a pleasure.
    • It is not irritating to be where one is, it is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else.
    • If anybody is sleepy, let him go to sleep.
    • All I know about method is that when I’m not working I sometimes think I know something, but when I’m working, it is quit clear I know nothing.

In keeping with the idea that a discussion is nothing more than entertainment, Cage prepared six answers for six questions asked after the lecture, regardless of how these questions sounded.


  1. That is a very good question. I should not want to spoil it with an answer.
  2. My head wants to ache.
  3. Had you heard Marya Freund last April in Palermo singing Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire; I doubt whether you would ask that question.
  4. According to Farmers Almanac this is False Spring.
  5. Please repeat the question …and again … and again …
  6. I have no more answers.

From John Cage: Silence – Lectures and Writings

(first published in 1961)

4 Comments Add yours

  1. birds fly says:

    Whoa…this is a lot to ponder on a Sunday afternoon.

  2. Oh, I just posted a “John Cage” poem by Edward Morgan on “Slow Muse”! I shall have to find it again and post it for you!

      1. Ann E. Michael says:

        Here it is:

        Opening the Cage
        14 Variations on 14 Words
        By Edward Morgan

        I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.
        ~ John Cage

        I have to say poetry and is that nothing and I am saying it
        I am and I have poetry to say and is that nothing saying it
        I am nothing and I have poetry to say and that is saying it
        I that am saying poetry have nothing and it is I and to say
        And I say that I am to have poetry and saying it is nothing
        I am poetry and nothing and saying it is to say that I have
        To have nothing is poetry and I am saying that and I say it
        Poetry is saying I have nothing and I am to say that and it
        Saying nothing I am poetry and I have to say that and it is
        It is and I am and I have poetry saying say that to nothing
        It is saying poetry to nothing and I say I have and am that
        Poetry is saying I have it and I am nothing and to say that
        And that nothing is poetry I am saying and I have to say it
        Saying poetry is nothing and to that I say I am and have it

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.