Down in Greensboro, North Carolina, David Tudor and I gave an
interesting program. We played five pieces three times each.
They were the Klavierstück XI by Karlheinz Stockhausen,
Christian Wolff’s Duo for Pianists, Morton Feldman’s
Intermission #6, Earle Brown’s 4 Systems, and my Variations. All
of these pieces are composed in various ways that have in common
indeterminacy of performance. Each performance is unique, as
interesting to the composers and performers as to the audience.
Everyone, in fact, that is, becomes a listener. I explained all
this to the audience before the musical program began. I pointed
out that one is accustomed to thinking of a piece of music as an
object suitable for understanding and subsequent evaluation, but
that here the situation was quite other. These pieces, I said,
are not objects, but processes, essentially purposeless.
Naturally, then, I had to explain the purpose of having something
be purposeless. I said that sounds were just sounds, and that
if they weren’t just sounds that we would (I was of course using
the editorial we) — we would do something about it in the next
composition. I said that since the sounds were sounds, this gave
people hearing them the chance to be people, centered within
themselves, where they actually are, not off artificially in the
distance as they are accustomed to be, trying to figure out what
is being said by some artist by means of sounds. Finally I said
that the purpose of this purposeless music would be achieved if
people learned to listen. That when they listened they might
discover that they preferred the sounds of everyday life to the
ones they would presently hear in the musical program. That that
was all right as far as I was concerned.