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120’00": A Conversation with John Cage

by Larry A. Fader

(trade edition)

“This 120’00" book is an amazing taste ... Through the space and time opened in this book, we have the privilege of being with Cage, and D. T. Suzuki, and Larry Fader, sitting in New York a few decades back ... in this delightful and profound ... little conversation, I feel I am having a really proper meeting with him [John Cage]. I welcome the experience, and joyfully recommend it to everyone." – from the Foreword by Tenzin Robert Thurman

  • September 5, 2012 publication date
  • Paperback format
  • 0-9824263-7-2ISBN
  • 56 pages
  • $19.95 price


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Author Bio

Fader Larry A. Fader received his Ph.D. in Religion from Temple University. His doctoral dissertation, which includes the John Cage dialogue published in this book, examines the influence of Zen teacher D. T. Suzuki on Western culture. Dr. Fader taught Religion at Temple and LaSalle Universities, and at Trinity College. He went on to attain an MSW at the University of Connecticut, a degree he uses for clinical therapy practice. Larry has directed the Family Institute of Maine, and Dialogue Center in Portland, Maine. He has taught, trained, and supervised therapists at these agencies and served on the faculties of University of Connecticut School of Social Work, University of New England, and the Cambridge Hospital Marriage and Family Therapy Program of Harvard University School of Medicine. Dr. Fader now lives in Western Massachusetts, where he sees a small number of clients, sings, writes poetry, and takes care of his goldendoodle named Alexander, and his cockapoo, Dr. Kumquat.



“Zen philosophy informed Cage’s worldview and creative approach, as Dr. Larry Fader’s 120’00: A Conversation with John Cage reveals poignantly. This 1976 exchange between Fader and Cage describes the profound effect of Zen scholar D. T. Suzuki’s lectures on the composer while also unveiling the delightful paradoxes in Cage’s music and the man himself. We come to see how severity and lightheartedness, control and freedom, composer and listener, ultimately humanity and the universe, are intertwined. The sound recording, reproductions of Cage’s visual artwork ... combined with the contextualized interview itself, comprise a rich resource for anyone seeking insight into John Cage’s work.” – Joan O. Epstein, Composer & Professor of Music, Eckerd College
“Larry Fader’s interview with John Cage is one of the most revealing I’ve ever read. It touches upon religion, Eastern thought, cross-cultural influences, and approaches to artistic creation, in a way that is warm, genial, moving, multi-faceted, entertaining and provocative—all very Cage-ian.” – Elliott Schwartz, Composer & Beckwith Professor of Music, Bowdoin College
120’00" is a gem. It shows us Cage at his most thoughtful, humble, and sharp, painting a vivid picture of his study of Zen Buddhism and its consequences for his music. Robert Thurman’s foreword is as thought-provoking as it is charming.” – Miro Magloire, Composer, Choreographer, Artistic Director of the New Chamber Ballet, New York


LARRY FADER: Well we drew a parallel with the grocery shopper who can’t find any chicken and therefore should be free enough to have beef. Supposing that no idea came to you which was non-discriminatory in terms of noise, silence, and sound. Would you then be free to write a piece that sounded like Mahler, for instance, that used the beef rather than the chicken?

JOHN CAGE: I see. Circumstances have arisen in the past, and now they are arising again where things that I had a distinct distaste for have come into my music. It’s largely through circumstances and the willingness to meet them. At the present moment, the one you speak of, harmony, is creeping in. [Laughter] And Beethoven, of course, got into HPSCHD and also into the Williams Mix along with “Radio Music” and, of course, other things. I think that the specific use of something that has been distasteful in my case only happens in the way I’ve described. I’m more apt to write something, the outcome of which I don’t foresee at all, so that the outcome wouldn’t tend to fall into some known formula or some known category of say harmony or not harmony. It would be more like something we hadn’t heard. The way harmony is creeping into my present work is that it’s a bicentennial piece, and I encountered problems, as I have before, in my use of earlier music. Much music of the eighteenth century is now copyrighted because publishers see an opportunity to take advantage of 1776 financially. Also, Moravian church music is protected. I am not permitted to use any of their music because they think my intentions are sacrilegious. Beyond that, there’s the idea that an artist has something to say and that Seiji Ozawa, who commissioned the piece, wants to know what I have to say about all of that old music. The piece I’m writing is a renga, which is Japanese linked poetry, with Apartment House 1776. The result is that I will imitate that old music rather than copy it. My inclination, as a follower of Duchamp, would be just to copy it. But the laws are still so strict in music. I mean, all the things that were done just automatically in thinking, still are not permitted legally in the field of music.

LARRY FADER: The honesty in that passage that we were talking about before is quite a testimonial, especially when you start talking about Germany and your dislike for the Germans. I wonder if freedom, in the sense that you seem to be moving towards, or really grappling with in an essential way, wouldn’t be defined from a Zen perspective as the freedom to like a romantic piece as well as an anti-romantic piece. It would be non-romantic rather than anti-romantic.

JOHN CAGE: Well, I am inclined to say in response to that, let’s not go too far. [Laughter]

LARRY FADER: Could you talk a little bit about the notion in one of your lectures of silence, demanding that you speak?

Publisher of Fine Editions | Geoff Gronlund, Editor