John Cage inspired many of the early Fluxus artists, particularly those who studied with him at the New School for Social Research in New York in the late 1950s. These artists included George Brecht, Dick Higgins and Jackson Mac Low, who all became central to the development of new performative art forms and Fluxus in the 1960s.*
It is not generally known that John Cage was also a keen mycologist. The intention of this work is to celebrate his interest in mushrooms. Like many Fluxus works, it is playful both conceptually and in performance. There are plays on the word ‘prepare’, on the fact the piano had been unplayed for some time (and hence had grown mushrooms and the keys stick) and the impromptu appearance of an Australian Staghound during the performance became the coda (Cage mentions deer in the extract below).
Prepare a piano with mushrooms.
Play only the mushrooms.
“I have spent many pleasant hours in the woods conducting performances of my silent piece…At one performance, I passed the first movement by attempting the identification of a mushroom….The second movement was extremely dramatic, beginning with the sounds of a buck and a doe leaping up to within ten feet of my rocky podium.”
This performance is associated with:
* Source: Smith, Owen 1998, Fluxus: The History of an Attitude, San Diego University Press, p. 23.