By Fredric Lieberman


Action Sonata
for any number of performers

Three metronomes: 50, 60, 70
choose one as your clock
create a cycle from three digits
introduction: metronome solo, one minute or longer
clap cycle, repeating as many times as the third digit
coda: metronome solo, one minute or longer

variation one

without metronomes

variation two

without clapping

variation three

without metronomes, without clapping



The inner tune persists,
resonance of sinew and desire,
melody that haunts hidden neurons,
circulates in the blood.
Memory, alive with moving tone,
will not be still.

. . . If a composer wants to produce music that is relevant to his contemporaries, his chief problem is not really musical, though it may seem to him to be so: it is a problem of attitude to contemporary society and culture in relation to the basic human problem of learning to be human. The individual may attempt to induce the audience to judge him and the situation in a particular way, and he may seek this judgement as a ultimate end in itself, and yet he may not completely believe that he deserves the valuation of self which he asks for or that the impression of reality which he fosters is valid. . .

. . . Coincidence is what they call pattern in which they cannot discern something they are prepared to accept as meaning; while chance is perhaps the pseudonym of God when He wanted to remain anonymous. . .


. . . Silence can be complex too,
but you do not get far
with silence. . .

There are, of course, many kinds of silence. Silence can be the desired foreground, as in a library (SILENCE, PLEASE!). It can be an active goal, as in some disciplines of meditation. It can be a byproduct of physical states (vacuum of space, absolute zero). It can be anathema, as on radio or television. It can be measured or unmeasured, free or imbedded, active or passive, real or imagined, relative or absolute.

. . .This is a time and a world where it makes almost no difference what we talk about&emdash;we always talk about one and the same thing. Categories crumble, the borderlines between the different spheres of human thought become unessential. Everything is connected with everything else&emdash;and, in truth, it has always been so: only, we were not conscious of it. . .

. . . Science cannot produce ideas by which we could live. Even the greatest ideas of science are nothing more than working hypotheses, useful for purposes of special research but completely inapplicable to the conduct of our lives or the interpretation of the world. Really how life gets on is a secret, you only know your memory, and it makes its own time. The real time leads you along and you can never know when it happens, the best that can be is come and gone. Moreover, I think that our wisdom itself, and our wisest consultations, for the most part commit themselves to the conduct of chance. . .


Mesostic Haiku Trilogy

John Cage Haiku


Meditation Sonata

Three temple bells

clear the mind


listen until sound disappears



stop if:



sounds persist indefinitely

no distinction between sound and silence

no distinction between self and bell

Note: In addition to text originating with the author, this quodlibet includes recontextualized quotations from John Blacking, Robertson Davies, E.L. Doctorow, Anatole France, Erving Goffman, Thomas Mann, Montaigne, E.F. Schumacher, William Carlos Williams.

For John Cage
March, 1987
Santa Cruz, California

UCSC | Arts Division