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Collected Writings

Heidegger's Hölderlin and John Cage

Michael Eldred

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Available as a book in Italian translation under the title: Heidegger, Hölderlin e John Cage translated and with a postface by Agostino Di Scipio, from Semar Publishers, Rome 2000, 21x16 cm, 88 pp. ISBN 88-7778-077-0. Also available partly in German in HTML. See also my essay The Quivering of Propriation: A Parallel Way to Music.

"The conditions for reflecting on Cage's work and listening to Heidegger in an original perspective. The essay enables us to rethink some aspects of the twentieth century". G. La Face Bianconi Amadeus

"A union which also shows political consequences. Curious, original, perhaps rather extravagant, but which can surely stay in the now immense and insatiable Heiddeggerian bibliography". Edoardo Camurri Il Sole 24 Ore


    Table of contents

    1. The issue 

    2. The other beginning in the Contributions to Philosophy 

        3. Hölderlin and the other beginning 

        4. Heidegger's Hölderlin Winter Semester 1934/35 

        5. Recapitulation 

          6. The New York Fifties 

    7. A contingent world, the world as contingency

    8. Cage's artless art

    9. Substitute Cage for Hölderlin

    10. Step back

    11. There is silence and silence

    12. Cage's technological credulity

    1. The issue 

    The other beginning - belonging to beyng - art as founding agent of history - Hölderlin as the poet of the Germans - overcoming metaphysics - transmutation of human being - these are only some of the great themes one encounters on reading Heidegger. This prominent figure of 20th century thinking embodies an extreme thinking and attracts precisely because a diagnosis of the world situation as well as an overcoming of this situation is posited in the thinking of being. The diagnosis announced is the forgottenness of and by being. The overcoming would lead to human being belonging to beyng. Heidegger himself is a thinker of the transition who wants to prepare this great metamorphosis with all his might and with all the sacrifice necessary. A great shadow is also cast over this illustrious thinking, a shadow with a name: National Socialism, perhaps the most ugly word in German history. Heidegger was, at least for a time and in his own way, a committed National Socialist. It is doubtful whether he ever distanced himself from this commitment unequivocally or felt remorse and shame, to say nothing about whether he confronted himself adequately with his own entanglement in National Socialism and that on a plane equal to his thinking. Thinking would have had to suffer through shame and remorse instead of remaining inflexible. 

    Heidegger expected a lot from a single poet. He tailored his thinking about art and the art work to Hölderlin. How can one speak about Hölderlin as the poet of the Germans after the historical disaster of National Socialism? There are two further concepts in Heidegger that crop up regularly in his texts when National Socialism is spoken about: Americanism and Bolshevism. Others would call these capitalism and socialism and they would probably be using more apposite concepts, especially since the word socialism is contained in the term National Socialism. Is Heidegger's talk of National Socialism, Americanism and Bolshevism in various lectures of the thirties and forties a match for his thinking proper, or is it a much too direct and unsettling short circuiting of his thinking of the history of being with the political events of his time? Did Heidegger ever think National Socialism adequately?(1) If not, this would presumably be the gravest charge that could be levelled at this great thinker. 

    Even fifty years after the collapse of National Socialism, German is in many quarters an ill-reputed word that arouses suspicion. That the Germans today could have an historical mission to fulfil would still provoke uneasy astonishment and fear. Many people today think that it is a good thing that the Germans have been dipped in the element of Americanism, and that not only because the German economy has flourished since the Second World War, but because so-called Americanism has instilled significantly more democratic attitudes in the Germans. Heidegger's commitment to a revolutionary change in the course of Western history and even to a leap into an other beginning must arouse considerable mistrust as long as the ugly word National Socialism in its relation to his thinking has not been clarified. What is the locus of National Socialism in the history of being? Did Heidegger ever define this locus, or did he only hide in Sybilline remarks? What does it mean when Heidegger speaks of the "historical uniqueness of National Socialism"(2)? Is that black humour? Does the historical "matchlessness"(3) of National Socialism consist in German being having destroyed itself in an orgy of self-annihilation? Was the attempted annihilation of the Jews the successful suicide of Germany, i.e. German being, as an independent historical magnitude? Can this self-annihilation, i.e. decline, be discerned in the post-war history of German philosophy? 

    Since with the word 'Americanism', Heidegger had drawn a line between himself and everything American, he was never able to involve himself with an American. In 1933 he remained as a German on the side of the Germans, while others of his generation, pressed by the distress of these times, emigrated to the United States. European intellectuals have had a profound influence on American art, and especially German intellectuals have had a profound influence on American thinking. In the forties, the 'German spirit' flourished there in the 'colony'. It lived in one of the towers on Manhattan. For this reason I want to bring the name John Cage (an artist and intellectual deeply rooted in European traditions, even though he breaks with them) into play as a counterweight and alternative to the German name Hölderlin. At the start it cannot be foreseen where this gamble will lead to, presupposing that Cage, as a trailblazing American composer, has a status to equal that of the German poet Hölderlin. Probably no greater artistic contrast could be imagined than that between Cage and Hölderlin. These are two completely different worlds, perhaps two different historical destinies. Heidegger expressed his assessment of modern art globally in the Spiegel interview in 1966: 

      That is precisely the big question: Where does art stand? What is its locus? [...] I want to say for the record however that I cannot see what is pioneering in modern art, especially because it remains obscure where it sees the propermost element of art, or at least searches for it.(4)
    Heidegger regards art as a pioneering force that guides history into its course and thus grounds history. He is speaking here of course against the foil of his own questioning that made a great effort to determine the locus of art, especially in the Hölderlin lectures as well as in the lectures on the origin of the work of art in the thirties. The locus of art (how could it be otherwise?) can only be determined in the thinking of being by proceeding from beyng. For Heidegger modern art is obscured. Does it lie in concealment, in that which conceals itself? Can clarity about the locus of modern art be gained? 
    To finally reach a point where Heidegger and Cage can have it out with each other, and that on a philosophical plane, we must first lay the groundwork by interpreting core elements of Heidegger's understanding of art, i.e. his determination of the locus of art(5). The art work is located in the transition to the other beginning. We must therefore find out more about the other beginning. 

    2. The other beginning in the Contributions to Philosophy 

    The Contributions from 1936-1938 represent Heidegger's great attempt at self-clarification. Here the quarry is staked out from which in the years to follow Heidegger will enrich his writings. All the essential components of this thinking after Being and Time are worked out here in private in the turning stillness of three years' meditation. The Contributions are therefore today the treasure trove for deciphering the deepest intentions of the thinking of being. According to Heidegger, a lot is at stake, namely, the decision "between history or loss of history, i.e. between a belonging to beyng or abandonment among non-entities" (GA65:100). Abandonment would mean the "transition to the technicized animal"(6), history by contrast would mean "dread in the jubilation of belonging to being". (GA65:99) 
      Only the most extreme decision from and about the truth of beyng can still produce clarity. Otherwise, the twilight of innovations and covering over will continue, or a total breakdown will occur.(7)
    Heidegger's thinking goes to the extreme. Philosophy and a necessary, distress-turning task of thinking exist only in a situation of historical distress. For this reason his thinking is an enormous imposition that understandably provokes opposition. If today thinking still has a place, this imposition can only be accepted in order to find out whether there is a distress and a distress-turning necessity in Western history and what their respective characters are. In the above quotation it is remarkable that the "most extreme decision" is to create "clarity", remarkable because Heidegger is the thinker of a turning in the essencing of truth into concealedness and moreover names "presentiment" as the basic mood of the transition to the other beginning. Can the distress in Western history be turned about by a decision that produces clarity? 

    In the realm of technology, the people of today - we - have been abandoned by beyng. We have not simply forgotten to think of something but have ourselves been forgotten by beyng in its self-concealment. For Heidegger therefore, thinking can be nothing other than preparing human essencing to be adopted by beyng. This would be the event as the appropriation of human essencing to the property of beyng. What should we think about this? Could the event eventuate in Western history? It could only take place, if at all, if the abandonment by being were the distressing destiny of Western - and by now planetary - humanity. But how can we experience what constitutes the distress of our historical situation? Only by thinking through Heidegger once again. Those who think through are seldom and will presumably remain so. Heidegger saw precisely this circumstance and therefore speaks in the Contributions about the "seldom" and the "few". It would be all too easy to simply label this elitism. 

    The event would only eventuate through a leap that leaps into the there of being-there, simultaneously founding it. The there is the open clearing for the truth of beyng, i.e. for the clearing of self-concealment, since beyng conceals itself. The leap would be the "founding of the open place of momentariness for an historical being of humankind" (GA65:234). Heidegger has solely the possibility of this founding in mind, which "places humankind first of all in the space for the play of the incidence and nonappearance of the advent and flight of the gods". (GA65:234) The decision in favour of history would make the passing by of the "last god" possible. In preparing the other beginning through asking the basic question, Heidegger himself leaps to the question about the essencing of beyng. Today, Heidegger's questioning and his language cause astonishment in many ways. But there is no escape. We can ask along with Heidegger, even then and especially when we try to think against him. The opponents have to be cothinkers, otherwise they think past Heidegger's question and the experience that set his thinking in motion. 

    The event would be the decision against the predominance of metaphysics in which beyng was only experienced as the being of entities. Beyng itself went under after shining up briefly in the first beginning (GA65:236) and did not find its way into an enduring language of thought. Thinking is first consolidated in Plato and Aristotle who proceed from the entity as such and never leave it and therefore can only think beyng as beingness. Entities dominate everywhere in metaphysics, they are the arché that still rules today. The decision in favour of the event would mean a certain turning away from entities. This would mean above all that the distress of Western history could not be turned away or fended off by technology but also that there would be no search to turn away and fend off distress by means of technology. Technology would even lose its dominion as that which puts everything and holds everything, humans and things, in motion. 

    Heidegger himself is by no means certain that the event will come to pass. Even though he is prophetic, he is a prophet on recall. Everything he writes on the event and the decision must be couched in the subjunctive. 

      Whether humankind can cope with both, to endure the chiming of the event as refusal and the performance of the transition to founding the freedom of entities as such, to the renewal of the world through saving the earth, who could decide and know that? (GA65:412)
      The voice of the people speaks seldom and only through few, and whether it can still be brought to resonance is uncertain. (GA65:319)
    But at the same time, Heidegger has decided in favour of the other beginning, a circumstance that can only be conceived of as faith: "This faith is rather persistence in the most extreme decision." (GA65:370) Heidegger is a persistent thinker, he persists in the transition, even though it could be the case "that the other beginning too can only hold on to the event and to protect it as clearing in a single flash, just as in the first beginning only phusis came into the gathering (logos), scarcely and that for only a moment." (GA65:236) The other beginning can thus go awry just as the first beginning did. 

    But not only that: persisting and waiting in the transition to the other beginning can not expect that the abandonment by being will be abandoned. For this reason, Heidegger's thinking is borne by an uncertain presentiment. Knowledge about the other beginning is not a certainty because the advent of beyng cannot be known but only surmised. Whereas in the first beginning the basic mood was astonishment, in the other beginning it is presentiment. (GA65:20) This presentiment is not inferior to knowledge that reveals; quite the contrary: the thinking of being moves within a completely different essencing of truth in which concealedness, withdrawal, refusal and withholding are essential. Concealment even has priority over revelation, a circumstance that is unbearable for a metaphysical attitude, for since ancient times truth has always been a happening of revelation in which entities as such unveil themselves. More than any other thinker previously, Heidegger thinks from within basic moods which he designates as historical and as nonpsychological. 

    Heidegger found himself in the decision in favour of the most extreme gamble on the transition to the other beginning. For him, selfhood exists only in persisting in the there as the clearing for the self-concealment and refusal of beyng. Authenticity, which in Being and Time could still be misinterpreted anthropologically, is experienced and interpreted after the turning without further ado as appropriation into the event, so that selfhood now can only be regarded as property of the event. This is of course far removed from any psychological understanding of selfhood. Selfhood exists only in the gamble on the transition as founding the there. But what does founding the there mean? 

    The there is located where human being belongs after being released from the metaphysical determination of human being as to zoion logon echon and variations of this. It is the between where, according to Heidegger, humankind and the gods encounter each other, where they are appropriated to each other in the event.
    According to Heidegger, art has a decisive role to play in founding the there. For him, there is only a single artist, a poet namely, called Hölderlin.

    3. Hölderlin and the other beginning 

    In the Contributions to Philosophy, Hölderlin crops up repeatedly, at first at the start of the text and then in more detail in the last section, Beyng. Hölderlin is not the subject of investigation here but is named in a more casual way as the crucial point of reference for Heidegger's thinking. A couple of years previously (1934/35), Heidegger gave an extensive series of lectures on Hölderlin which has to be understood as the background to the references in the Contributions

    The first remarks in the Contributions on Hölderlin concern the relationship of thinking to poetizing, as if the poet had an easier lot than the thinker. Heidegger thinks about what Hölderlin has poetized before him. 

      How could thinking succeed where the poet, Hölderlin, has previously failed? (GA65:12)
      The poet conceals the truth more easily than others do in the image and donates it thus to the gaze for preservation. (GA65:19)
    At the beginning of the Contributions, the task of thinking is measured against Hölderlin's poetry. His poetry has a head start over thinking because it reaches out farthest into the future. For Heidegger, Hölderlin is the poet of the transition who only becomes an historical necessity as a poet today. In a section (GA65:62) that deals with the abandonment by being and its overcoming in a series of theses and questions, Hölderlin's name appears in the eighth and last thesis: 
      8. Why does Hölderlin's poetry only become adventist and thus historical for this transition? (GA65:129)
    For Heidegger, the future bears the name of Hölderlin. As the one who has poetized farthest into the future, Hölderlin points the way into the future, conjuring up the divine of an other beginning. Not only does the profoundness of the suffering through of abandonment by being count, but above all the presentiment of the future, which has to be advent of the gods, even if this advent may be a passing by at a distance. 
      105. Hölderlin - Kierkegaard - Nietzsche 
      Nobody should today be so presumptuous as to regard as merely fortuitous that these three men, who last of all have suffered most profoundly through the uprootedness that has drifted toward Western history and who at the same time had a most intimate presentiment of their gods, had to leave the brightness of their daylight prematurely. What is being prepared? What is the significance of the fact that the earliest of these three, Hölderlin, became at the same time the one who poetized farthest into the future in an age where thinking strove once more to know the entire previous course of history absolutely? (GA65:204)
    Thus, for Heidegger, Hölderlin is one who points the way out of abandonment by being. He is not only someone who points the way, but he is the one who points the way. For this reason, he can be "our necessity": 
      To what extent is the poet, Hölderlin, who has already gone ahead, our necessity only now in his unique poetizing and oeuvre? (GA65:353)
    For those to come, who prepare the founding of being-there, Hölderlin has a unique status because he is the one most removed into the future and thus lays the poetic groundwork for a metamorphosis of humankind. 
      Hölderlin their [the adventists'] poet coming from afar and thus future poet. Hölderlin is the most adventist because he comes from farthest and, in this farness, measures through what is greatest and transforms it. (GA65:401)
    Thinking thus has the task of creating an auditorium for Hölderlin's word. 
      Accordingly, philosophy is now at first preparation of philosophy in the manner of building the first forecourts in whose space Hölderlin's word will become audible, answered by being-there and in such an answer grounded as the language of future humankind. Only in this way does humankind step onto the next slow catwalk toward beyng. Hölderlin's uniqueness in the history of being must be grounded beforehand and all comparisons in the history of poetry and literature, all 'aesthetic' judgments and enjoyment, all 'political' evaluation must be overcome so that the moments of the 'creators' have their 'hour'. [...] The historical determination of philosophy comes to a climax in recognizing the necessity of creating a hearing for Hölderlin's word. (GA65:421f)
    If Heidegger otherwise has it out with the great figures of philosophy, these efforts aim at working out the various missive destinies of the being of entities in the course of the history of metaphysics, and that with a destructive intention, i.e. in order to overcome metaphysics historically. The philosophers in the history of metaphysics are not future figures, but foregone figures belonging to the first beginning. Only Hölderlin, according to Heidegger, points beyond metaphysical destiny. For Heidegger he is therefore the only poet and the only artist; only he puts the truth of the other beginning to work in the work. Hölderlin is the origin of Heidegger's references to a non-Christian god and the encounter of gods and humans in the event, one of the axes on the foursome, which play such a prominent role in Heidegger's late thinking. Only through Hölderlin does Heidegger come to a positive casting of the other beginning, even if this casting necessarily remains a presentiment. 
      Truth, that clearing of self-concealment, / in whose open space the gods and humans are appropriated to their encounter, itself opens beyng as history which perhaps we have to think if we are to prepare the space that Hölderlin's word, which again names the gods and humans, has to preserve in resonance for its time, so that those basic moods are made to resonate which tune a future humankind into guardianship of the duress of the gods. (GA65:422f)
    Hölderlin's greatness derives from his status as demigod who poetizes the gods. 
      Because here a greatness of thinking existence is coerced by beyng itself, whose contours we can scarcely surmise from Hölderlin's poetic existence and from Nietzsche's ghastly wanderings, because in the space of the thinking of the history of being only this is greatness, for which reason talk of greatness remains too small, therefore, the preparation of such thinkers must gather together every last vestige of unrelentingness and move within the clearest of distinctions. (GA65:432)
    The decision that Heidegger poses as the decision between history or the lack of it is at the same time the decision as to the advent or turning away of the last god, a figure poetized in Hölderlin's poetry. 
      That Hölderlin poetizes the future poet, that he himself 'is' as the first of them, who poses the decision as to the nearness or farness of foregone and future gods. (GA65:463)
    Hölderlin is Heidegger's only artist. For him, however, the artist is a poet who moves in the medium of language and poetizes the history of a people in advance by naming its gods in a myth. In Heidegger's eyes, Hölderlin, as founder of the myth that founds history, is Germany's Homer. Hölderlin thus stands out as a great figure among great figures who manages the leap into the other beginning in a single bound. 
      The leap into beyng and its truth is already demanded here, the experience that under the name of Hölderlin that unique putting-to-a-decision happens; I say happens, not happened. We can try to put this 'event' into relief historically in its uniqueness by viewing it in the midst of what still is history to date in its highest potency and its richest unfolding: in the midst of the metaphysics of German idealism and in the midst of Goethe's forming of the world-picture, in the midst of that which is separated from Hölderlin by a gulf (in 'romanticism'), even if it 'influenced' him, the bearer of the name, historically, but not the guardian of beyng. But what is achieved by setting Hölderlin into relief? It achieves at the most only a new misunderstanding, as if Hölderlin were something 'unique' within that history of metaphysics and art; whereas it is not a matter of 'within' and also not a matter of 'outside' as an exception. Rather, it is a matter of the underivable thrust of beyng itself to be caught in its purest facticity, that now and since that time that decision is posed in the history of the Occident, no matter whether it is or can be taken to notice by the still enduring age or not. (GA65:464)
    At the end of the Contributions, which are nothing other than a questioning of the truth of beyng, Heidegger asks surprisingly once more as to a justification of such questioning. Hölderlin is again Heidegger's authority and that not only as an authority among others, but as the sole support for the thinking of beyng. The first indication of the other beginning was thrust toward Hölderlin's poetry in a time when Hegel casts a grand retrospective view over the history of philosophy from a summit. Among other things, Hölderlin decisively determines Heidegger's thinking on art and the work of art. 
      On what is the conjecture that the thrust of beyng has already thrown a first shock into our history supported in the midst of all the insupportability of such questioning of the truth of beyng? Again it is supported by a single circumstance: that Hölderlin had to become that sayer who he is. (GA65:485)
    After all that has been said, to think that Hölderlin has the position of a key figure for Heidegger would be much too weakly put. Hölderlin, the poet poetizing in advance, bears an enormous weight in the thinking of beyng as the caster of the advent or final flight of the gods. Today, this all seems quite astonishing. What should one think about the talk of gods? Some are all too eager to stick the label 'mystic rumblings' on it. Is this nothing other than the narration of some phantastic myth? Is it convincing that Heidegger views Hölderlin as separated from romanticism "by a gulf"? How so? Has Heidegger here undertaken a violent interpretation, i.e. reinterpretation, of Hölderlin to press him into the mould of thinking of the history of beyng? If a gulf is supposed to separate Hölderlin from romanticism, this could only be the case if Hölderlin does not poetize from the subjectity of the subject, but somehow has a presentiment of the openness of being-there and thus poetizes it in advance, for only then would the talk of the "thrust of beyng" have any sense. Does Heidegger succeed in making a convincing connection between Hölderlin's poetry and the casting of human being as being-there in his Hölderlin lectures? Heidegger sees the gulf that separates Hölderlin from romanticism, among other things, in the fact that Hölderlin's poetry is nourished to a significant extent by Heraclitean thoughts. Heidegger interprets one of Hölderlin's essential words, "innerness" as the taut, resisting unity of the Heraclitean tension of the bow (Frag. 51): 
      For Hölderlin, this word [innerness] is the foundational metaphysical word and thus far removed from any romantic sentimentality... (GA39:249)
    Heidegger thinks to the German people as addressee. For him, Hölderlin is the destiny of the German people that decides whether the Germans will find their historical place in the other beginning or not. Only because the German people was his addressee was Heidegger able to commit himself to National Socialism and attempt to steer the "movement" into a 'more authentic' direction. For Heidegger in the thirties and forties, German being is sandwiched between Americanism and Bolshevism, both of which represent variants of technicism unleashed and are thus exposed irredeemably to abandonment by beyng. If at all, then it remains the privilege of German being to save the Western world. Which makes the suspicion plausible that Heidegger became victim of a blind 'patriotism' bearing essential characteristics of romanticism. It is blind insofar as it prevents him from seeing the complicity of his own thinking with the disaster of National Socialism(8) as well as from uncovering his deep-seated prejudices, especially against the Anglo-American world. As far as the latter is concerned, consider for example the following passages from Heidegger's lectures in the forties: 
      'Bringing to a fall' is now going-behind, the 'trick', a word which is not only fortuitously adopted from the 'English'. (GA54:60)
    What does the Sybilline reference to the English language mean, which is an addition put into scare quotes? Apart from the fact that 'trick' could also be regarded as a French word. The Parmenides lecture cited here is from the winter of 1942/43 during the war in which the English are 'the enemy'. More remarkable and unsettling is a passage from the Hölderlin lectures of Summer Semester 1942 in which the entry of the United States into the war is commented on: 
      Today we know that the Anglo-Saxon world of Americanism is resolved to annihilate Europe, that is, the homeland, and that means the beginning of Western civilization. The beginning is indestructible. The entry of America into this planetary war is not an entry in history but is already the last American act of American historylessness and self-devastation. For this act is the refusal of the beginning and the decision in favour of what has no beginning. The hidden spirit of the beginning in the Western world will not even have a contemptuous look for this process of self-devastation but will await its historic hour in the calm collectedness (Gelassenheit) of the beginning. (GA 53:68)
    Heroic words! And at the same time a commentary from the history of being on a concrete historical event (which sounds however more like a forceful act of desperation): the entry of the United States into the war. The word decision is used, and that as the decision of the Americans in favour of what has no beginning. This decision makes the Americans in Heidegger's eyes into the metaphysical enemies of the other beginning, which however is supposed to be indestructible and can wait serenely in the wings for its historic moment. In 1942 still, Germany is for Heidegger the homeland and the representative of the beginning of Western civilization. In 1942 still, Heidegger's identification with National Socialism is sufficient for him to be able to square a German victory in the Second World War with a decision in favour of the other beginning. The American decision, by contrast, is for Heidegger in the last instance futile, since the beginning is indestructible, whereas a German victory would mean a genuine decision in favour of the homeland and Western civilization. Supposing that the Germans had been victorious, would the annihilation of the Jews have been part of the decision in favour of the other beginning and the homeland? Would it have been an acceptable price for achieving an other historical greatness? 

    Whoever affirmed National Socialism also affirmed Auschwitz (no matter whether he knew about it already during the war or not; and it was impossible, even well before the outbreak of war, to have known nothing), for the theory of race and antisemitism are part of its essence and were part of the party's program from the very beginning. How did Heidegger want to draw a line in this respect? It is not sufficient to have only wanted to save and reshape the German university out of the entire complex, to want to "renew it out of its essential ground" (9) when this German university had already begun in 1933 to banish its Jewish lecturers. How did Heidegger intend to remove the murderous elements from the program, to say nothing about his moral evasion?(10) Is it not properly speaking the German spirit that dissolved in the smoke of the stacks of Auschwitz? Is the genocide of the Jews at the same time the suicide of the Germans historically? Does Heidegger have a presentiment of this when he refers at the conclusion of his self-justificatory text to the Germans "after the catastrophe has broken on top of them"?(11) If the Germans annihilate and devastate themselves historically, does it still make any sense to speak of an other Western beginning? Did Western history consume itself in the attempted eradication of its Semitic other? And so: far from being indestructible, the beginning would have destroyed itself so that the planet only endures in the twilight of American giganticism after the decision against history. Heidegger's heroic words always arouse suspicion because they always smell of violence. The other beginning, "standing in the indestructible" (GA 53:68) demands sacrifice because the indestructible and devastation belong together, "just as the valley and the mountain" (ibid.) belong together. The Germans first have to go through devastation to arrive at the other beginning: 

      Could however such [being-able-to-wait for the other beginning] ever happen without the historical human breed of this beginning first becoming mature for the beginning as its own through the pain of its sacrifice? (ibid.)
    Who can still read about sacrifice and becoming mature after Auschwitz without being appalled? In Heidegger's eyes, the Germans must first be hardened and disciplined for the other beginning so that they can take on their great historical mission. 

    4. Heidegger's Hölderlin Winter Semester 1934/35

    Two years before writing the Contributions and after his resignation as Rector, Heidegger holds his first Hölderlin lectures at the University of Freiburg in which it becomes clear what Heidegger's thinking imposes on this German poet, namely, the founding of "that history which commences with the struggle around the decision concerning advent or flight of the god".(12) Is Hölderlin thus to be understood as the founder of a new religion, as a poetizing prophet? Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe interprets Heidegger's use of Hölderlin as the attempt "to take the step beyond rigourous questioning or beyond the mere announcement of an 'other thinking' and to sketch the first lines of this 'other thinking'".(13) According to Lacoue-Labarthe, "Heidegger fails insofar as he does what he expressly warns Jünger against doing: 'crossing the line'". (ibid. p.31) This crossing amounts to founding a "new mythology": 
      At the same time, the foursome and the 'want of holy names', the ring and the light ring and the four, waiting for the new god and other similar motifs constitute a mythology in the philosophical meaning of the word, that is, a mythology without revealing (apocalypse) the name or viewing the location. (ibid. p.33)
    Does Heidegger really cross the 'line' in casting the foursome by building on Hölderlin's preceding poetry? With his observations about a mythology, Lacoue-Labarthe does not, however, want to initiate a critique of Heidegger, for "from what locus could one 'criticize' Heidegger?" (ibid.) Rather, Lacoue-Labarthe speaks of an "infinite mistrust" "because of Heidegger's political stance".(ibid. p.34 GA65:353) "The altercation must turn on this point." (ibid.) This political stance must, however, be translated into the dimension of thinking because the only thing that can interest us about Heidegger is his thinking. 

    An alternative to this Lacoue-Labarthean strategy is to put Heidegger's understanding of art into question, a strategy which is tried out in the present text. For Heidegger art has only an historical meaning. But Heidegger's "political stance" can also be explained from this, since for him art as poetry founds the polis. 

    The Hölderlin lectures of 1934/35 makes the poet into the German Homer. Not in the least can one speak of a "weak Messianic force" (Benjamin) for what Heidegger wants to make of Hölderlin. 

      Historical human existence is borne and guided from the foundation by beyng which the poet has experienced in advance, veiled in the word and placed in the people in this way. We grasp this happening in a single phrase by saying: The poet founds beyng: This founding of beyng was carried out for Western existence in Homer whom Hölderlin calls the 'poet of all poets'. (GA39:184)
    Essential elements of Heidegger's interpretation of Hölderlin must now be drawn into an altercation that ultimately should make Heidegger's understanding of the other beginning as a mobilization of the German people into its historical destiny questionable. 

    It is easy to ascertain who Hölderlin is for Heidegger: "poet of the Germans" (GA39:214) corresponding to Homer as the "poet of all poets" and founder of the historical existence of the Greek people. Heidegger adopts unquestioningly a model of historical founding from the Greeks which envisages three steps in historical time: 

      This originary, historical time of the peoples is therefore the time of the poets, thinkers and creators of states, i.e. of those who properly found and reinforce the historical existence of a people. They are the creative ones in the proper sense. (GA39:51)
      The time of the creative ones and the people is riddled by fiords,... (GA39:52)
    The originary time is not a smooth passing by of moments but is "riddled by fiords" which are the respective epochs founded by the "creative ones". The creative ones, in turn, are the "poets, thinkers and creative state founders": 
      This beyng however is founded poetically, structured by thinking and put into knowledge, and in the deeds of the state's founder rooted in the earth and the historical space. This historical beyng of the people, the fatherland, is sealed in secrecy by its very essence and forever. (GA39:120)
    The creative ones found "the fatherland" lying hidden in the "secret" of beyng. The poets are the first ones to thus forge the fatherland of a people by compelling their historical destiny into the "rigour of saying". (GA39:273) For Heidegger, this is "the Greek-German mission". (GA39:151) to retrieve and repeat the Greek beginning by founding the German fatherland. The 'other beginning' is nothing other than this. In the retrieving repetition, however, the status of thinking is raised or at least strengthened, for: 
      Western historical existence is ineluctably and ineradicably a knowing existence. ... Because our existence is knowing, ... for us there is no longer any purely poetical becoming of existence, just as little as there is a purely thinking becoming, but also just as little as there is a solely activist becoming. It is demanded of us not only to erect suitable and continual compensating connections between the poetical, thinking and active powers but to take their hidden, summit-like isolation seriously... (GA39:184)
    Just as Sophocles' poetry achieves a "founding of Greek existence in its entirety ... in the face of the gods" (GA39:216), so too should Hölderlin take on this role for the Germans so that they can "stand on solid ground" (ibid.): "this living is founded in and through poetry, i.e. it is 'poetical'". (ibid.
      It is a matter of the genuine appearance or nonappearance of the god in the being of the people out of the distress of beyng and for beyng. This appearance must become a fundamental happening. (GA39:147)
    Poetry as founder of steadfast living, rooted in the soil of the fatherland, also prepares the divine for the people: 
      The poet compels and banishes the flashes of the god into the word and puts this lightning-charged word into the language of his people. (GA39:30)
    In this way 
      through the arrival of the new gods a new course is to be allotted to the entire historical, earthly existence of the Germans and a new determinacy created. (GA39:93)
    The poets are translators of the language of the gods: 
      ... and since ancient times, winks are the language of the gods. Poetry is the transitive winking of these winks into the people,...  (GA39:32)
    In this lecture series, a great deal of Heidegger's thinking about history, art, language, the gods, among other things becomes more concrete and clearer. In particular, the obscure phrase concerning the "passing by of the last god" from the Contributions achieves greater clarity: 
      The transience of the eternal is not for nothing, but rather precisely passing by is the way in which the gods are present, the ephemerality of a scarcely comprehensible wink that in the instant of passing by can show every degree of bliss and terror. (GA39:111)
    The gods are present in passing by; they wink "scarcely comprehensible" and move on. The beyng of the gods is an "ephemerality" which is scarcely there. Their ephemerality, in being winked on further, is supposed to open up an historical course, place a people before a decision and thus found a steadfast living of the people in its soil. 

    But how is the poetical language that relays winks supposed to open up such an historical possibility? Heidegger is very clear on this point: the poet awakens a basic mood in the people which is always an opening up of world. The temporal manifestation of "originary time" (GA39:109) is the "basic happening of mood" (ibid.). The particular basic mood that was to be awakened by Hölderlin's poetry is the mood of "holy mournful, compliant tribulation": 

      To decide in favour of the proper time of poetry means however: to enter into the basic mood of holy mournful, compliant tribulation. Since such a mood cannot be brought about violently and artificially without any conditions, we must pose ourselves before the decision whether we want to participate in creating the presuppositions for such an experience or whether we want to work against it, even if only through indifference and perplexity. The decision proper in favour of or against shifting into the basic mood of poetry presupposes that we are strong enough to experience distress, from which tribulation and preparedness will first rise up. (GA39:112f)
    The people must be "strong enough" to look into the eyes of the distress of distresslessness and thus to feel a mournfulness. The poet too must be strong enough, for: 
      The basic mood itself must however first be awakened. For this struggle of changing mood in the moods that predominate in each situation and linger on, the firstborn have to be sacrificed. These are those poets who speak out in advance the future beyng of a people in its history and are necessarily overheard in doing so. Hölderlin is such a poet. The basic mood of holy mournful, but compliant tribulation awakened in his late and most mature poetry founds the metaphysical locus of our future historical beyng still struggling for a determination of its greatness. With this, our historical existence is put into the highest distress and a decision that lies far before and above the question whether Christianity will prevail or not... (GA39:112f)
    The poet makes history by compelling an historical destiny into language. Hölderlin, Sophocles, Homer found an historical temporal space with their language, which puts a world up for decision. 
      The opening revelation of entities happens in language, not only a recapitulatory expression of what is revealed but the originary revelation itself, and precisely therefore concealment too and its predominant distortion, illusion. ... Only where there is language does world prevail. Only where world, i.e. where language [prevails], is there the most pressing danger, danger at all, i.e. the threat to being as such posed by nonbeing. (GA39:62)
    Only the poetic power of language is able to open up an historical world. It does this by awakening a basic mood in the people and leaving "the unsayable unsaid" (GA39:119) in saying. Heidegger takes his essential concept of language as such from poetic language. Everyday language, communication, statements are for Heidegger not language in a primary sense, but poetry as the "originary language of a people" (GA39:64) is, compared to which language in the conventional sense as understood by theories of language and in linguistics is only an insipid dilution. But where does this priority of language come from, even if it be a priority of poetic language? This question becomes even more urgent considering the fact that originary poetical language that founds history is supposed to primarily awaken a basic mood. Can a basic mood eventuate or be awakened originarily only in (poetic) language? If the basic mood is supposed to call an opening of beyng and entities in their totality into temporal being, then, according to Heidegger, only language is able to unlock an historical world. How so? Is world only where language is? For Heidegger, language is and will remain "the house of being" (letter on humanism). 

    And what is this poetic language supposed to say in 1934/35 when it founds an historical world? This is expounded especially in the second part of the lecture series, which treats the hymn entitled The Rhine. Hölderlin poetized the "demigod", the Rhine, who is supposed to powerfully found the fatherland, for the river is "primordially overflowing will" (GA39:265); the will of the demigod is "superwill" (GA39:208). In the founding, everything proceeds from the will and toward the will of the people for "an historical people is a people as community only when it knows, and that means wills that community can only be an historical community when those others risk and consummate their being-other as the others." (GA39:284) The poet as the other puts his language in the midst of the people so that it can know what it wills and wants. The superwill of the river that wills the fatherland springs from mother earth as "the closedness of the womb that allows submergence" (GA39:242) and also from the "ray of light" (ibid.) of the divine lightning flash, in the Greek manner. The "excessive fullness of a great willing" (GA39:243) has to be "compelled toward a figurative forming" (ibid.) which is called "putting the truth to work in the work", originary energy, in the lectures on the origin of the art work. This overflowing will is what pushed Heidegger in the direction of National Socialism and holds him fettered until the end of the war.

    5. Recapitulation 

    The "Greek-German mission" (GA39:151) is supposed to be realized according to the three-step model of the poet-thinker-statefounder. Hölderlin comes forward here as "proclaimer and caller for those concerned who themselves are engaged in a vocation as constructors constructing the world". (GA39:221) Even after the war, the interrelationship between building and poetizing is maintained - cf. e.g. '...humankind lives poetically...' in Vorträge und Aufsätze (1954). The thinkers have the role in this enterprise of moulding "poetry into the hardness and determinacy of thoughtful-questioning knowledge" (GA39:221). It is evident that this cannot happen without struggle and strife because poetry "as founding act is nothing other than the noise of armed nature itself, beyng, which brings itself to itself in the word." (GA39:257) Thus does Heidegger translate the thought contained in the Heraclitean polemos-fragment into German. The predominance of the will as superwill is the hinge that connects Heidegger's thinking, which dreams of a great historical task of the German people, intimately with National Socialism. That after the disaster of the collapse of Germany's attempted conquest and especially after the revelation of the horror in the death camps this dream has been irrevocably dreamt to nothing has been visible for a long time. 

    Any striving for greatness and unification, especially national greatness, is more than suspect today. Any strong thinking that promises a new beginning, a tabula rasa smells of totalitarianism and violence and murder. Strength and greatness have become categories that are more than questionable. The way Heidegger worked through the disaster of National Socialism consisted mainly in turning away from the will, which characterizes and marks his thinking after the end of the war, even if the will to a national historical greatness rooted in the German soil is never completely extinguished. Talk of being saved by a god, which only makes sense on the foil of the Hölderlin lectures of 1934/35 and the Contributions, is retained even in the late Spiegel Interview of 1966. Thinking waits still for a great future which it is preparing. The advent of the other beginning founded by the Germans is only postponed to a far off, indefinite future. 

    If Heidegger supports himself in the Contributions solely on Hölderlin, and if his nationalist interpretation of art under the leadership of poetry has to appear extremely questionable today, then everything surrounding Heidegger's thinking opens up once again. When Heidegger maintains in the Spiegel interview that he "does not see what is pioneering in modern art", this has to do essentially with his understanding of art bearing Hölderlin's stamp. If the "national element" disappears from Heidegger's writings after the war, this does not mean that everything has now been extended from the German to a planetary scale and that the specific German element could be forgotten. Rather, Heidegger's thinking about art, poetry, language, the other beginning and essentially the will has to be put into question. The retraction of the strong will in Heidegger's post-war writings is indeed striking, after it had characterized his stance during the regime of National Socialism. The transitional text to this altered stance is On Locating Letting-be from 1944/45, in which thinking turns away from will and toward waiting. However, elements of Hölderlin are retained in the casting of the foursome. 

    On an appropriate occasion it will prove worthwhile to investigate the text on letting-be, especially with respect to Heidegger's attempt to come to terms with the German defeat that is becoming apparent. The disaster of National Socialism probably broke Heidegger's will, not in a psychological sense, but in an essential, philosophical sense. Now, however, we should risk a leap across the Atlantic to New York in the fifties to find out what modern art was doing at that time. Heidegger, of course, did not see what was "pioneering" in this new art, which is not surprising in view of what has in the meantime come to light about Heidegger's interpretation of Hölderlin. The leading form of art in the New York art scene of the fifties was not poetry but initially painting, which then irradiated fundamental, powerful effects onto music, mediated above all by the composers John Cage, Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff. 

    6. The New York Fifties 

    Change of continent, change of perspective, change of language, change of world. The contrast between the Black Forest of south-western Germany and New York City could hardly be greater. With his deep-seated rejection and disdain of Americanism, the world of art and music in the NYC of the fifties was not open to Heidegger. In America there are no thinkers in the sense that there have been Denker in Germany, but after the war that drove so many European intellectuals and artists to the United States, there was a burgeoning art and music scene with its centre in New York. Something happened in New York after the war, as if Europe had given up its ghost, or passed on its spirit, its Geist, to the other continent. The German spirit had committed suicide, or had at least gone into metempsychosis. 

    Cage and Feldman were deeply influenced by the European imports, but more directly by the transformation that art went through at the hands of Jackson Pollock and the other Abstract Expressionists, a transformation in which American art stepped out of the shadow of European painting once and for all and came into its own with a vengeance. Painting was at this time the avant garde for music, and music learnt the lesson that it now had to do without language, without meaning, without a literary underpinning. Music ceased telling stories as it went along, thus breaking also with Schoenberg, who had brought the German musical tradition with him to the United States. Schoenberg's twelve tone system, according to his intentions, allowed a continuation of the great German tradition, maintaining its rootedness in meaning and a text. Instead of this reliance on an anchorage in language and a theory, Cage and Feldman (together with Earle Brown and Christian Wolff) broke with the theoretical systems that held dominion over the tones and took the very first steps to allow sounds as sounds to happen. Sounds as sounds means that they are no longer ordered in a harmonic, atonal, twelve tone or any other system nor are they transporters of meaning articulated elsewhere in a poetical text but rather they are allowed to happen just as they are, each sound for itself, or even each noise for itself. It is the diaspora of sounds as an act of liberation, the exodus of sounds from the bondage of harmonic and other systems. They find their way into dissemination. An explosion, a catastrophe takes place in the fifties, a catastrophe that ejects music into a hitherto unknown freedom with unfathomable possibilities. This act of liberation is on one level tied to a program and given an historical mission with Cage (and Wolff too) trying to build bridges between music and social change. Feldman, by contrast, does not, but is content with being purely a composer. 

    What does this tell us about Heidegger? There is a lot to say, some of it showing up the gulf that exists between Heidegger's conception of art on the one hand and Cage's (and Feldman's) on the other, but some of it showing a deep affinity, signalled by the terms letting-be and the apophantic as. There is also some indication that Cage's art has opened up another historical world, thus echoing lines from Heidegger's lectures on the Origin of the Work of Art, but in a way that would have been unrecognizable to the latter. Heidegger and Cage share also a naive view of politics resulting from short-circuited translations of their respective thinking and art onto the level of politics. (This will be elaborated on later, albeit only with respect to Cage.) 

    The phrases 'sounds as sounds' and 'noise as noise' already have a Heideggerian ring about them. Like no other, Heidegger showed how metaphysics hangs on a small conjunctive word, as. He characterizes the openness of Dasein for the world as being able to understand beings as beings, to on heh on. The apophantic as is the ontological difference, the between in which world happens for Dasein. For Heidegger, this as is the origin of language. Being lays claim on Dasein. Exposed or thrown into the openness of the apophantic as, Dasein is compelled to respond. This response is language, even if Dasein says nothing. Merely being open to sounds as sounds is already being within language in Heideggerian terms. That would mean that hearing is the originary experience of language. Dasein is able to hear entities as such and is thus in the world. The originary language of sound does not, however, have to carry a message, it does not have to mean anything. This is where Heidegger and Cage part ways, because Heidegger ties sound back to language in the sense of words and more especially to words in the sense of his sketch of the foursome of world. Otherwise, Heidegger would not have been able to make poetry into the hegemonic artform that opens up and founds a world. 

    This tying back to language takes place in another context even as early as Being and Time, when Heidegger insists that the sound heard is always already the sound of something, say, the sound of the motor bike passing by, the wind in the trees, the door slamming, etc. But then sounds would always mean something. The sound of the oboe may be experienced as the sound of the oboe, but that's the end of the matter: this sound does not have to mean anything by, for example, evoking a specific emotion or having a part to play in a musical development. Heidegger's intention was, rightly, to prevent the physicalistic reduction of sound to composite waves of certain frequencies that vibrate in air, but the implications are more far-reaching. The sound of music for Heidegger can only be music in a world that has already been opened up and established by poetic language. Cage et al do without this crutch. For them, sounds come and go without having to refer to anything but themselves. They do not need to be rooted or located in a text or in an overarching musical system. 

    Thus it is not fortuitous that Cage and Feldman were inspired by the abstract expressionist painters who themselves had accomplished a reduction of painting by emptying it of meaning. The colour on the canvas does not have to represent anything anymore. It is not a symbol, nor does it represent an object mimetically, nor is there any other reference to an exterior meaning. A kind of clearing of the board takes place with the New York painters of the fifties. Now they start again from scratch with the basics: paint on canvas. Colour as colour comes to be seen. This nihilistic, reductionist movement is neither resignative nor absurdist. It is rather throwing metaphysical ballast overboard to allow colour as colour to emerge. The nakedness of the colour is overwhelming and highly reserved at one and the same time. It shocks and shows discretion with one and the same gesture. There is nothing to see, but the mood is overpowering. Consider, for example, Rothko's hovering, shimmering patches of colour which are transcendental only in showing colour as colour. Interpreting these patches of transcendental colour as sublime and divine only does violence to them. They are what they are. The apophantic as is the originary transcendence that calls us into the there; it is not a beyond. 

    The same thing happens with Cage's and Feldman's and Wolff's music. There is nothing to hear but the sounds themselves. There is no development, no predictability, no beginning, no end. There is no introduction and no finale. Nothing is expressed. The pieces are not there to provide a virtuoso performer with an opportunity to shine. "Value judgments are not in the nature of this work as regards either composition, performance, or listening."(14) Cage and Feldman have no intention of leading the American people to their historical mission, even though Cage, as we shall see below in more detail, wants to improve the world. They have nothing to say, except perhaps: Happy New Ears. Their music speaks of nothing. But this nothing is not nothing, it is rich. There are strong overtones of agreement between Heidegger and Cage/Feldman that are located in the theme of letting be (Sein-lassen, Gelassenheit). Feldman talks about not "meddling with the material", not "pushing the sounds around", to which his German interlocutor, Stockhausen, replies "Not even a little bit?"(15)

    It is no wonder that Cage became more famous than Feldman, for he wrote and published more texts, and these are marked by a lucidity that allows Cage's artistic intentions to be clearly understood. Feldman, on the other hand, was more sparing in his writings and has a more cryptic style, often spiced with anecdotes like some Zen teacher dropping koans. For a philosophical evaluation of the so-called New York school, it is Cage who offers more material to chew on. Texts on how specific pieces were composed do not hold the main interest for a philosophical survey, which requires a wider view. In the clarity of his conception and the radicality of his leap into another kind of music, Cage is also the more pioneering figure. He outlines a new kind of art as a whole, whereas Feldman remains pretty much a composer. 

    The exchange between Abraham Skulsky and Cage in the periodical Musical America at the beginning of the fifties is an instructive example. Cage rejects the terms of Skulsky's view of the composer's task as "achieving ideals" or presenting a "new aesthetics". Against this, Cage sets the assertion: "Art is a way of life. It is for all the world like taking a bus, picking flowers, making love, sweeping the floor, getting bitten by a monkey, reading a book, etc., ad infinitum".(16) The Freiburg music historian, Hans-Heinrich Eggebrecht picked out just this point as pivotal for having it out with Cage as a thinker and creative artist. Eggebrecht questions the edict that there is no difference between art and life in a radio program that was broadcast on German radio on 7 August 1994. To say that "art is a way of life" is one way of leaving the traditional realm of aesthetics, which is concerned with the enjoyment and appreciation of sensory perception. As we shall see below, Cage's art ultimately dissolves art by questioning the foundations of techne

    The dictum that art is a way of life brings Cage into contact once again with Heidegger, who, with other motives in mind, strove to break the vice-like hold of philosophical aesthetics in his lectures on The Origin of the Work of Art in the mid-thirties. The two alternatives to traditional aesthetics show surprising similarities. Heidegger leaves the schema of form and material or form and content for thinking about art works and puts in its place the thought that a work of art opens up an historical world in a struggle with the earth, that for its part leans towards concealedness and inertia. What for Cage is a way of everyday life is for Heidegger an historical world. No matter how these two terms are further interpreted, both take leave of the work of art as an aesthetic experience, be it that aesthetic means 'concerned with beauty', or be it that it is taken in the original Greek sense of 'concerned with sensory perception'. Beauty is inevitably a matter of taste and judgements about what is pleasant, but now taste is got rid of as an arbiter of the success or failure of a musical composition. "Normally the choice of sounds is determined by what is pleasing and attractive to the ear: delight in the giving or receiving of pain being an indication of sickness."(17) Both Heidegger and Cage insist in different ways that the work of art be useful, Cage by tying the art work back to life in learning to change oneself in accepting things as they happen contingently, and Heidegger by putting the work to work in prising open another historical world, conceived as another uncovering of the being of beings, i.e. an alternative casting of being. 

    Cage takes in the world of sounds and noises and declares them, without distinction, to be music. No longer should the system of harmony in its various forms and extensions, culminating in Schoenberg and then the serial composers, be the form that reigns over and organizes the material of uniquely defined, pitched tones. Cage thus proceeds in a direction diametrically opposed to that of the serial composers Boulez and Stockhausen, who developed a system for controlling not just pitch but rhythm, dynamics, stresses and duration as well by means of mathematical permutations (see below). Here there is no parallel to Heidegger's thinking about the art work in the mid-thirties, but there is nevertheless an affinity to the later Heidegger, who takes leave of the will as the essence of thinking towards the end of the Second World War in his text Gelassenheit (Letting-be). Cage, convinced that life is essentially non-intentional, also strives to open up works of musical art to non-intentionality. This takes place in two phases, the first, in which he uses chance operations to compose a piece, paradigmatically represented by his Music of Changes (1951), and the second, in which the musical work itself becomes indeterminate, by allowing the performers to make choices and, more radically, by subjecting the performance of the work itself to the vagaries of chance, so that the work never sounds the same twice. The paradigmatic piece here would be Imaginary Landscape, a composition for twelve radios, in which what is playing on the radio at various frequencies at the time of the performance is allowed to become part of a piece of music heard by an audience. Many of Cage's later pieces are set free for superimposition with other works, thus introducing indeterminacy in the performance of them. The work of art, especially in Imaginary Landscape, becomes a net for catching contingent aural events. Music becomes coincidence. In such a composition, all that is put together is the radios, the frequencies and the volumes in a temporal frame together with some instructions for using them. There is no melody, rhythm or harmony, but there is something to listen to. Music is thus recast as listening to what happens in a time-space frame. This recasting goes far beyond the redefinition of an artform or the proposal of a new aesthetics. 

    In line with Cage's dictum recasting art as a form of life, the redefinition of music implies a redefinition of life, i.e. ultimately a recasting of who we are in everyday life. Human being becomes an openness to and for what can be heard; its essence lies in listening rather that willing something. An openness for the world precedes any acting in it. This is a long way from the traditional metaphysical zoion logon echon and the zoion politikon, both of which are premised upon a being with an ability, namely, the natural light of reason, employing it to manipulate things in accordance with the will. Both Heidegger and Cage, in very different language, insist on the openness of human being for the world as the fundamental event of being here, in contrast to the metaphysical castings of human being as an animal with certain qualities and abilities to act on entities in the world. Openness for the world precedes any questions of knowledge (technology) or ethics, which always already presuppose, unthought, this originary openness. 

    7. A contingent world, the world as contingency

    The casting of the world that Cage offers with his thinking and music and contributions to the other arts is that the world is what happens at random, at haphazard, by chance. Contingency, accidentality, randomness, haphazard, chance are words characterizing the new world we live in, the world that carries on where modernity and the modern subject left off. Said negatively, randomness is characterized by a lack of control, "having no definite aim or purpose" (OED), being free from restraint, or positively: "made, done, occurring at haphazard, by chance" (OED). Whereas "made" and "done" still refer to an acting subject, "occur" is open to the happening of events without special agency. Cage's casting of the world implies an abstaining from restraint, a relinquishing of control over things. What is left is, said in Zen terms, nothingness, or in Heideggerian terms, the truth of the openness of being as such. 

    Cage's art and thinking can well be regarded as a response to the increasing complexity of the world. He insists on art being useful for living in today's world, which is characterized by complexity, itself in turn simply the reverse side of the manipulative power unleashed by modern technology. Complexity results from a network of independent nodes, whether they be individuals, companies or institutions, interacting in no particular pattern. There is no point in the network from which one could gain a bird's eye view, no point at which its structure or meaning would become manifest, not even for a god. No longer is it presupposed that there is some ultimate subject for whom, in its infinite wisdom, everything made some sense, as opposed to human understanding, which is finite. There is no longer any maker assumed behind it all. Instead, the events occur simply at haphazard and can be taken in as such by an attentive existence without concocting explanations. The worldwide web of telecommunications currently being spun aroung the globe, for example, is a loose-fitting knit that links only to open possibilities, not to force necessities. 

    The relinquishment of control is one of the main threads going through Cage's development as a composer from the late thirties to the sixties. Starting in the late forties, he devises more and more ways to abscond from the scene of the art work as composer-subject and to allow things to happen. What infuriated and enraged audiences and musicians alike initially was that everything dissolved into anarchy. (Witness, for example, the premiere of his Piano Concerto on 19 September 1958 in Cologne, where the audience interjected with noises of its own.) This was in fact Cage's aim: to abolish the overarching principle, to depose the ruling prince, a corollary of which was to depose the conductor. Without the system of harmony, there was no yardstick against which to conveniently measure the tones heard. At first it all sounded chaotic, a huge joke, and John Cage was simply the clown. But Cage was quietly serious. In playing together, the musicians act and interact as separate monads, each with his or her own line and time. They play neither harmoniously nor disharmoniously because they play outside of harmony. There is simply no longer any overarching system that could be used to judge the sounds heard as an integrated whole. They remain disparate, each one for itself, although interacting and coinciding with other sounds in unpredictable and surprising ways. This becomes especially apparent in the superimposed pieces, because there is no whole to start with within which each performer would have an assigned part to play. 

    Cage's compositions differ from some other musical works in the second half of the twentieth century which employ more and more complex mathematical systems such as the superimposition of rhythms, microtonal intervals and stochastic models. Neither in composing nor in performing does the composer relinquish control over the sounds when composing by these methods. The standards of virtuosity demanded of the performing musician(s) tend to rise in parallel to the rising complexity. Not that Cage's compositions do not place high demands on performers, even calling on virtuosity as in, say, the Freeman Etudes for solo violin. For this piece, Cage worked closely with the violinist Paul Zukowsky in finding out what was still possible to be played on this demanding instrument. It was a matter of translating celestial charts into notes and fingering playable on the violin. But the demands placed on the performer are basically of a kind other than virtuosity. They require the simplicity of devotion more than brilliance. With the corset of harmony, the traditional occidental language of the soul, having fallen away, the judgement of performers on the basis of virtuosity also starts to swim. Expressiveness, in particular, loses validity as a yardstick, since the sounds made are no longer expressions of the musician's or the composer's soul. Pathos and feeling cease to be criteria of musical judgement. Music is no longer a medium through which the soul is moved emotively. Still less does it become a soulless field of exercise for intellectual contortions, a charge more justly to be levelled at serial music. The great difference between Cagean aleatoric and indeterminacy procedures and modern composition techniques is that the latter proceed from known systems and make them complexer to an ever-increasing extent, so that there is always a fine thread of theoretical knowledge, no matter how entwined, holding the whole composition together, whereas Cage employs random procedures that ensure that one can never theoretically penetrate the final musical event that is aurally experienced. The admission of chance both in composition and performance not only overloads but actually cuts off and relinquishes any possibilities of a theoretical grasp. It lets the openness of opaqueness be. The musical work becomes in principle technically non-understandable, incomprehensible. Said positively, Cage's music lets the chaos of contingency be such. Contingency as contingency is let be; there is no attempt to transmute contingency into explicability by means of some chaos theory or other, as modern mathematics is wont to do. It is precisely this admittance of incomprehension and allowance of opacity that marks Cage off from his European counterparts, raising their ire to a not inconsiderable degree. One can almost feel the hackles rising in, say, Boulez' or Xenakis' sometimes condescending attitudes toward Cage's music. These latter composers, remaining as they do strongly committed to the European tradition of techne, can only regard Cage's iconoclasm in the halls of occidental music as anathema. 

    Of all the Western arts, music (and architecture) have been the most mathematical, and mathematics is the purest, most eternal form of Western knowledge, the form of knowledge with the greatest degree of theoretical penetration and thus control. Even today, mathematics is regarded as the language of the secrets of the universe. Kant's insight into the interrogative nature of modern science, which demands answers from nature in a certain (mathematical) form, has still not caught up with modern scientists, who arrogantly regard themselves as the possessors of the deepest arcane knowledge about nature's mysteries. For the Greeks, mathematics, the theory of harmony and metaphysics were very close together. The order of the universe, the movement of the spheres has from time immemorial been thought of in terms of harmony and mathematical proportions, i.e. rationality in the original sense. It is not simply fortuitous that those philosophers who ushered in the modern age, Descartes and Leibniz, were also eminent mathematicians. The mathematization of time and space were great metaphysical castings of the world that opened up and paved the way for the sciences to take control of and manipulate things. Music partook of this progress and employed mathematical procedures for its own ends in organizing its material. Thus, for example, the mathematical theory of combinatorics, only developed relatively recently, is very much at home in serial music. Chance can be allowed into music in a controlled way via the theories of probability, statistical distributions and stochastic processes. Chaos theory discovers order in disorder, thus winning possibilities of control. 

    Pure aleatorics in the way Cage used it means relinquishing control, suspending comprehension and allowing sounds to happen without asking why. Cage's aleatorics are a leap into simplicity. Some European composers have since taken up aleatoric methods but simultaneously subjected them to control for the sake of a result that pleases their ears. Thus there is the "controlled aleatorics" of Vitold Lutoslawski, but there are many others, starting with Boulez, who put the shackles of taste and theoretical stringency back onto contingency. Much of serial music sounds strained and constipated, whereas Cage's works have a looseness of letting be and thus a beauty all their own (albeit that beauty is not the point). Eric Salzman writes, for instance, in a comparison of Cage's Variations IV with Stockhausen's Hymnen

      The whole [of Variations IV] is casual (in both senses), multifaceted, totally non-linear; it is, in part or in whole, a relaxed, totally engaging, total, and even joyous experience. The Stockhausen, although its length is presumably variable, is far more organized. It has a cutting edge like a steel blade and a tense, nervous quality that never lets up. For all that goes on, it has a curiously flat, one-dimensional surface, across which patterns - simple, complex, familiar, unfamiliar, static, dramatic, dense, thin, electronic, recorded - are traced. The Cage is an experience and, even taken in big doses, an engrossing one. The Stockhausen is an ordeal - fascinating, disturbing, monumental, melodramatic, powerful, and exhausting. (18)

    8. Cage's artless art

    If Cage's innovations in music and art can be seen in connection with a renunciation of techne, it implies the most radical change in art since the Greeks, a change that could be characterized as the renunciation of art in favour of artlessness. Artlessness must however be understood not simply in the sense of its dictionary meaning as the substantive from "artless", meaning "without artifice, guileless, unskilful, crude" (OED) and thus "without cunning or deceit", but as "without art" in the sense of without preconceiving foreknowledge. Can being without foreknowledge imply that one is unskilful or crude? Does artless mean being natural? Can being 'with art' mean that one is cunning and deceitful? With respect to the former at least, Cage, Feldman and others have indeed been accused by European composers of being "amateurs", i.e. below the level of fully fledged, professional composers with the necessary knowledge and expertise. 
      A man does all these innovations, he is an amateur, I, for years, I'm still called an amateur. I'm one of the few original people writing music; I'm an amateur! ... But some jerk, some jerk in Budapest, in a sense, copying Bartok is a professional! I never understood this... (19)
    Presumably there is no great degree of cunning or deceit or craftiness in this judgement. Boulez and Stockhausen, the main protagonists of the European tradition against the innovations proposed by Cage and others from the so-called New York School, were certainly keen on knowing everything before venturing to compose. They were probably terrified by the prospect of being accused of being amateurs, an accusation with paralysing effects in Europe even today, and that not only in the field of music. 
      Boulez wrote a letter to John Cage in 1951. There was a line in that letter I will never forget. "I must know everything in order to step off the carpet." And for what purpose did he want to step off the carpet? Only to realize the perennial Frenchman's dream ... to crown himself Emperor. Was it love of knowledge, love of music, that obsesses our distinguished young provincial in 1951? It was love of analysis - an analysis he will pursue and use as an instrument of power. (ibid. p.65 )
    Feldman seems to have the right intuition about what it means to renounce knowledge and analysis. Instead of talking about artlessness, he introduces a distinction between craft and skill which is based on the difference between revealedness and concealedness, aletheia and lethe
      Craft is something you do in the light; skill is something you do in the dark. Like making love. If you want to make love in the light, you have no skill... (ibid. p.173)
    The old music is done in the light of reason, on the basis of a theory of permissible and impermissible sounds. The new music is done "in the dark", amorously, without foreknowledge. It is a matter of being a good lover. 

    9. Substitute Cage for Hölderlin

    There is a way of taking a view of Cage's dictums on art as a way of life from Heidegger's lectures on The Origin of the Work of Art, substituting now John Cage for Friedrich Hölderlin as the reference artist. If the substitution works, it will reorient thinking about Heidegger, while at the same time planting Cage's philosophical insights in deeper soil. Heidegger posits the work of art as opening an historical world by putting truth to work/into the work. Truth here is the revealedness of an historical world. Truth is put to work by being put into the work, which in turn has the task of opening up an historical world based on another truth, that is, an historically specific revealedness of being and thus of entities as such. This opening up is a struggle in which a world is wrested from the earth. It would seem that Cage as an artist, more specifically, as a composer, has opened a world with his works and thus set truth to work and into the work. In this other world a decision is made about what entities will be. Cage is unequivocal on this point; entities are for him centres "moving out in all directions without impasse"(20). This reminds one of Leibniz's monads as force centres, but in contrast to Leibniz's monads, Cage's centres are not dependent in any way on an omniscient and omnipotent God for their existence or their properties. Rather, each centre is a centre in and for itself, and the multitude of centres interact and interpenetrate without mutually hindering each other. Because of their an-archic independence, Cage's entities are essentially contingent and only contingently necessary, i.e. ordered. 

    Cage's music puts this truth of being to work by treating each aural event, each tone, sound and noise as its own centre that interpenetrates non-impedingly other aural centres without becoming subject to any overarching principle, be it compositional or otherwise. On this basis, existing musical works from the tradition of Western music can also be cut up and mixed without doing any violence to them; they are equally valid and do not have priority over the noises one hears in the streets. Cage's "Mixes" result from this procedure. There is no longer any principle, any prince or king, holding sway over the centres and pressing them into one mould or the other. It is music detached from the willed subject with a certain definite intention. Each centre happens on its own accord without being predictable on the basis of an overarching knowledge nor having a function to fulfil in a whole and thus can happen accidentally and coincidentally and aimlessly. There does not have to be any overall plan. "The sounds enter the time-space centered within themselves, unimpeded by service to any abstraction, their 360 degrees of circumference free for an infinite play of interpenetration." (21)In the course of the fifties, Cage progressed to more and more radical degrees of indeterminacy in his compositions, so allowing contingency to come into its own. Getting nowhere means achieving greater degrees of aimlessness and coincidentality and randomness. The time brackets he employs right up to his last works ensure that each musician can act, within the brackets, from his or her own centre. The brackets are given contingently by the world, e.g. by tosses of the coin. 

    Cage's music puts truth to work by revealing another openness of beings as such and thus casting the totality of entities as such in a different way, namely, anarchically. This is entirely at variance with Heidegger's conviction that it must be a work of language, more specifically, poetry, that inaugurates and delineates the casting of another world. This is no accident but has fundamentally to do with the character of the world Cage's music inaugurates. This world is silence. The basic event of silence is noise that has no meaning and comes before language. Can this be compared with Heidegger's late formulation of the essence of language as "das Geläut der Stille", "the ringing of silence"? Yes, but only to notice the vast difference, for Heidegger's formulation is embedded within his thinking of the foursome of a world in which gods and mortals, earth and heaven cross over in interplay. "Stillness stills by bearing out world and things into their essencing." (22) Cage's ringing of silence, by contrast, is the simple experience of opening your ears to what's happening. Although Cage wrote very lucid texts about his music and placed it in a broader philosophical context, it must be said that his music does not rely on the written thoughts as an underpinning, but rather the other way round: it is the openness that the music calls for that demands an adequate language and thinking to describe this historical event. Cage is first and foremost an artist, a composer, not a thinker. His texts reflect on what he does as an artist and not, say, on the apophantic as or the ontological difference, i.e. thoughts won in the course of grappling with the metaphysical tradition of philosophy. Cage's world of silence is not rooted in a meaning that is already structured as the foursome of world. In particular, it is not the world of a people that finds itself historically in its own poetry-based provincial home, carved out by the mighty Rhine, but a cosmopolitan world for a planetary population open to what happens contingently within and without the network that interlinks them. 

    Perhaps, after the Second World War, it is only possible to cast a cosmopolitical world, the world as one place to live for all those living. As Cage puts it, quoting James Joyce: "Here comes everyone." (23) More than ever, despite the control exercised by technology and science, the earth's population is exposed to the openness of possibility rather than the certainty of a known order. The bonds of an imposed order have loosened in every respect. It would seem that what was left of the German spirit fled Nazi Germany in a suitcase, labelled with the incognito 'twelve tone system', of an Austrian Jew, Arnold Schoenberg. In California, this suitcase was handed over to an American, John Cage, who transformed its contents in ways unimaginable for the German émigré. The German spirit mutated, against Schoenberg's intentions, which were to provide a continuation of the great German tradition, into something akin to Zen. The points of similarity between Zen teachings and Heidegger's thinking, especially after the War, indicate in some way a confluence of East and West in an incipient planetary thinking. 

    Cage's seminal piece, 4'33" has been rightly adjudged to be fundamental to the radical change Cage inaugurated in music. 4'33" = 273", the absolute zero of stillness. 

      4'33" (No. 2) (0'00") Solo to be performed in any way by anyone. In a situation provided with maximum amplification (no feedback), perform a disciplined action. (24)
    The world is the openness in which we hear noises willy-nilly when we are attentive and inquisitive. Attentiveness is the basic characteristic of human being; it does not mean concentration on one source but rather the freely floating receptivity for many and varied sources that interpenetrate unimpededly and refuse to be put into a neat logical order. The piece 4'33" is openness itself. It is a piece that breaks with the entire Western tradition of art, i.e. techne, bringing forth into unconcealedness on the basis of knowledge. Neither the composer nor the performer brings forth; rather the composer gives or takes no more and no less than a timeframe, and the performer stages an openness that allows an audience to hear noises as music. The art work here is the openness itself of the timeframe. The world is what is taken in at random. This implies something for human being. Originarily we are given a timeframe that calls us into receptive openness for the world. Our first act - it is by no means passivity - is listening, perhaps inquisitively, to what happens in the timeframe granted us. We hear in the difference of world sounds as sounds, which is what characterizes us as human beings. We are put out into the difference of the apophantic as. Only on the basis of listening and being able to hear sounds as sounds can we respond understandingly. All acts based on will, i.e. all acts proceeding from a subject, are not originary in the other world Cage casts. All pursuit of interests, i.e. being among and immersed in entities, is not originary. We are here for no reason in particular. In this other world, the subject with its will and interests is derivative. World is first and foremost given and granted as time-space before a subject, already having understood entities as such, acts intentionally within it. World is time-space, like 4'33". This art work sets the truth of world as time-space to work. It is slight and simple in conception. Precisely this slightness, brevity and simplicity are the hallmarks of a world-shattering work that opens up a new world, similar to how Descartes' brief meditations stand at the portal of the new age of modernity that takes over from the medieval epoch. Just as Descartes' writings cast the world of the subject based on the fictive unshakeable certainty of the cogito, Cage's piece recasts the world as time-space openness, at the same time transforming the subject into the being-there of Dasein. 

    Jill Johnston, in 1962 the dance critic of the New York Village Voice, quotes in her insightful review of Cage's first book, Silence, a thoughtful remark by the composer Robert Ashley: "...the ultimate result would be a music that wouldn't necessarily involve anything but the presence of people. That is, it seems to me that the most radical redefinition of music that I could think of would be one that defines 'music' without reference to sound." (25) This is probably on the right track, although we have still to ask what the presence of people means and whether it is necessary for music. Does silence need people to be silence? The tendency is towards an understanding of music and of art as a whole that opens it up to the originary phenomenon of being there. Music is the paradigmatic artform for this radical widening because it comes back to the paradigms of open behaviour in attentiveness and listening. Silence is the event beyond intention and interest, the event of being beyond or before relating to any specific entity. Sound is primary here rather than sight, the supremely metaphysical sense (26), because listening is the sense of human being's receptivity par excellence. This listening must not be understood merely as the auditory sense, but as the openness of existing in the difference of world that lets entities be themselves. Inquisitiveness is a basic trait of this open human being. 

    Intentionality in the strict philosophical sense derived from Husserl, is the subject's act of directing the will towards entities. The will is at the base of the metaphysical understanding of action that is with us from the very start of the Western tradition. Aristotle defines action as striving plus intention (orexis + proairesis). This definition proceeds from an understanding of human being as being the subject of action (hypokeinenon tou dramou). Similarly, thinking is also intention as a directedness of mind towards specific entities. The baseline of metaphysics is acting on the basis of knowledge or insight. It is not fortuitous that there is sight in insight, because, as Aristotle notes right at the beginning of his Metaphysics, sight is the sense that most of all provides knowledge, i.e. it is the sense of directedness towards entities par excellence. It is the archetypal prying sense. In contrast to this, listening is receptivity and not knowledge of entities. It takes things in as they are without necessarily understanding them or prying into them or being able to explain them. As a metaphysical and not simply sensual sense, hearing stands for openness of and to the world, the originary transcendence that lands human being in a mood out there in the there of the world, without necessarily being attentive to specific entities. Only on the basis of this originary openness for being can the being of beings be perceived. The event of being is the originary unmade missive donative, sent before any subject can act. As donative it is simultaneously the destiny of being human. 

    10. Step back

    With his silent piece, 4'33", Cage unknowingly performs the step back about which Heidegger speaks, but in a way that Heidegger did not envisage, transfixed as he was on Hölderlin. The step back alters everything, not least of all the understanding of art. The art work is no longer primarily a work in the sense of that which has been brought forth. The art work is no longer thought poietically. Art is not originarily poiesis. This represents a break with the metaphysical tradition whose implications can scarcely be overestimated. The step back dissolves the boundary between art and existence because art becomes artlessness. Both become openness for the event of being, the originary happening. One immediate corollary of this is that the artist cannot have an intention he or she wants to get across, nor can it be a matter of expressing an emotion or of moving an audience emotively. The art work is then a happening experienced variously and disparately by an audience. The audience, as the word says etymologically, is originarily aural, not visual. The viewer is rather the suitable title for the one experiencing a metaphysical art work. The art work happens at various independent points and is experienced at various independent points by the audience. Events overlap and interlace and interact without impeding each other. There is no unified meaning to be culled from a performance. In particular, it does not tell a story. It is consistent for Cage, the first performance or happening artist, to have moved freely beyond the bounds of music to painting, film, theatre and dance because the postmetaphysical art work is not primarily what has been brought forth, and thus not definable in terms of a medium, but is rather the setting up of an open timeframe for an event or events. This setting up is not a presentation of something already imagined. Cage even describes the new composer as an entrepreneur: 
      Composer who no longer arranges sounds in a piece, simply facilitates an enterprise. Using a telephone, he locates materials, services, raises money to pay for them. (27)
    Not only music is in its element in time, but time is the fundamental dimension for art and existence sans phrase. The artist dreams up a timeframe; the audience is framed within its lifetime. The artist acts within the openness of the event of being and cuts out a frame from it, clearing a space for something to happen. The artist is no longer an artist but a clearer, not in the sense of a clarifier but as someone who clears a space in the originary clearing of the openness of the revealedness of being. The frame cleared should not be thought of as a duration, which would be a linear segment of time. Instead, it should be thought of as a three-dimensional slice cut out of the originary, ecstatic time-space (see below), the art work being thus an open timeframe excerpted from time-space. Being there as lifetime is standing out into the three ecstasies of time-space: future, present and foregoneness. Being here (Dasein) in space has a past, a future and a present, to all of which Dasein is held out and exposed. What happens in the timeframe of art as a slice of the originary time-space of existence is a disparate multiplicity of events that draw attention to this or that entity, say, this or that sound from this or that instrument. For the listener, what happens is unforeseeable and unforehearable. Knowing is suspended. Events burst at random into and within the timeframe cleared as an art work. The direction of attentiveness is only a response to the more originary events drawing attention to themselves. Knowing or understanding what is going on is preceded by being open for what is going on, which presupposes only an openness for the being of the beings taken in. The being of beings is understood, which allows things to be taken in as something. The randomness of what happens happens on the foil of the schema of understanding the being of entities. This schema is part of the originary donative of being to being there (Dasein). The gift opens up the as of being able to perceive beings as beings, so appropriating Dasein for the sake of being. Within the schema, entities come and go as events, without cause and without purpose. Nothing precedes the event that would have caused it; nothing proceeds from the event that would be its purpose. There is neither efficient cause nor finality. 

    Cage breaks radically with the European tradition of music and asks why it is we bother about tradition. Instead of being concerned about "history", Cage's entire thinking is oriented towards the future, not just in the sense that it is avant garde rather than conservative and thus furthers what is new, but in the more fundamental sense that his music is concerned with opening up the dimension of future in time-space. He was never concerned with l'art pour l'art, with taste, pleasantness or aesthetics, but with doing "what must be done". (28) In the article quoted, which was first published in 1959, he elaborates on a statement by Christian Wolff in an article published in 1958 characterizing the new music as "Sound come into its own." Cage comes up with profound insights into this. 

    Being concerned with experimental music, he asks "What is the nature of experimental action?" (ibid. p.69) and replies "It is simply an action the outcome of which is not foreseen." (ibid.) The word "foreseen" hits the nail on the head. "Foresight" is sight to the fore, sight ahead, i.e. sight into the future. Sight into the future means one can see what is coming. The ecstasy of future in the time-space is transparent to foresight. "Sound come into its own" means that this transparency becomes opaque. Instead of sight into the future, attentiveness for what comes unforeseen out of the space of future is called for. Hearing then has no foresight, no forehearing, but is called on to be open for what sound comes. Inquisitiveness gains a pre-eminent status. Cage relates this most radically to indeterminacy in performing music. The composer works directly with procedures for producing sounds in a performance, "for nothing one does [as a composer] gives rise to anything that is preconceived," (ibid.) i.e. there is no pre-existing work that is performed but instead instructions for producing indeterminately unforeseen sounds. Another precise and essential word occurs here: "preconception", the essential characteristic of techne, which is foresight in the form of foreknowledge. Techne, as Aristotle first thinks it, is a dynamis, a power or potential. In his metaphysics, Aristotle thinks the being of dynamis as being a point of departure having dominion over a change in something else, or in the same thing insofar as it is something else. (E.g. when the doctor treats herself, she does not treat herself as a doctor, but as a patient, i.e. as if she were someone else.) As knowledge, and more specifically, as foreknowledge, techne is a "point of departure having dominion over a change in something else". The carpenter who knows his or her art knows in advance how to make a change in the wooden material so that, say, a bed results. Carpentry as an art or techne is in the first place foreknowledge or know-how, a potential as knowing how, not the actual making of the bed itself, which is actualization of the potential of know-how. The foreknowledge is the preconception on which the carpenter acts. He or she preconceives the bed that is to be made. On this basic level, this is no different from the composer preconceiving the piece to be written "to express sentiments or ideas of order". (ibid.) Techne is fundamentally foreknowledge as point of departure for a change in something else and is thus control over what happens in the future. As insight into and thus control over the future in this broad sense, techne is the quintessence of controlling power. In music, the performance of the work has to measure up to what was preconceived. For new music, being indeterminate, there is no preconceived yardstick; there is always an element of surprise at the unexpected, for the composer has left the clearing open to the unforeseen. 

    When the play of chance is allowed in(to) composition, one renounces foresight and foreknowledge. Composition ceases to be techne, the control over change in beings on the basis of knowledge or preconception, and comes to be an experiment for what could happen in an open time-space. Experience comes into its own in experimental music. What is primary here is the time-space and its openness to possible experiences. The future of this time-space is no longer transparent but opaque. In its opaqueness it is open nevertheless, keeping possibility open. Openness here means first of all the cleared opening of time-space and second, receptivity on the part of listeners for what sounds arrive from the future into the present. Openness does not mean being able to see or intuit what comes. The elements involved in the performance of this new music are mostly uncontrolled, the composer only laying down certain parameters to stake out the time-space-frame. And this is what is needed historically: 

      For it is the space and emptiness that is finally urgently necessary at this point in history (not the sounds that happen in it - or their relationships) (not the stones - thinking of a Japanese stone garden - or their relationships but the emptiness of the sand which needs the stones anywhere in the space in order to be empty). (ibid. p.70)
    Primary is the emptiness of the future from which the sounds come. Music then becomes - unleashed from taste and preconceptions and expectations - surprising. With the step back, it is opened up to possibility and thus loosens up. Historically necessary is the openness for the clearing of time-space into which sounds burst like bubbles. Music first has to be cleared of preconceived, pre-ordered sounds, the slate wiped clean to clear the time-space for openness and receptivity. "Then things - sounds, that is - would come into being of themselves." (ibid.) This is a matter of urgent necessity, whereas "much of modern music is no longer urgently necessary" (ibid.). And Cage asks: 
      Why is this so necessary that sounds should be just sounds? There are many ways of saying why. One is this: In order that each sound may become the Buddha." (ibid.)
    Sounds, standing for things or entities in general, can become the "Buddha" if the openness of stillness is allowed to prevail. Stillness is the time-space in which things, including sounds, happen. Happening comes towards us out of the future. Cage proceeds from the insight that music happens in time, and that time is the most fundamental element of music. But everything happens in time-space; sounds are only exemplary for entities in general. "We are in time itself..." (ibid.) We exist in the still clearing and cleared stillness of time-space itself, so long as we exist. We exist towards the future, as long as we exist. Things come toward us out of the clearing of the future, mostly unforeseen. Only as long as we exist is this time-space with its three ecstasies open to us. Another way of saying this is to observe that we exist in the clearing of being as mortals. As mortals existing in the openness of time-space, everything that happens in this time-space "may become the Buddha". Being there as mortals precedes, is more originary than having insight and foresight, since the future is essentially opaque, although open. This opacity is not a lack but is the fullness of elusive possibility, which can be experienced as such. Techne, including modern technology, presupposes the clearing of time-space in which mortals can also perhaps have foresight and know-how and be technicians in the widest sense. The foresight and control provided by technology are secondary to the richness of possibility. 

    It is not immediately clear how or whether this translates onto the level of politics and social change, especially since politics is a matter of managing our affairs, i.e. of dealing with entities on the basis of interests. It cannot be a matter of political struggle, which would presuppose a willed, striving subject who gets involved in the struggle of interests. It is more than questionable whether Cage's political anarchism fits his more fundamental anarchism of surrendering the arche of techne, arche being understood as being a starting point having dominion over a change, archemetaboles. Any political stance, in any case, has to be viewed as something deriviative in the light of the more radical departure from the arche of techne and thus any of the conventional forms of political anarchism are not adequate to this more fundamental casting of human being, based as they are on ideas about being free from the state, i.e. they are essentially negative movements against the state as a universal social subject with the role of governing society and keeping it together within certain forms of right. The individual with inalienable human rights underlies these 'anti' conceptions of politics. An-archism is interpreted as anti the state and is thus dependent on the state. Anarchism in the sense of letting sounds be sounds and things be what they are, by contrast, is not directed against an arche but is a renunciation of arche in the sense of the controlling foresight of techne. As renunciation and a relinquishment of control, it is a step back. It is thus presumably a renunciation of politics, leaving the latter to its own fate. The an in an-arche is not a negation but a step back. The an-arche is also a-techne, i.e. a-technicism in a fundamental but easily misunderstandable sense, because no opposition to technology or negation of it is implied but rather a step back from technology. The step back does not have to land us back in the simplicity of peasant life. As renunciation of the primacy of technological knowledge, the step back does not imply having to do without electricity or PCs but opens up the horizon within which we define ourselves as human beings. It widens the view from entities as such to the openness of being as such. 

    11. There is silence and silence

    We have to ask whether Cage and Heidegger are talking about the same thing when they talk about silence. Probably they are not, coming at it as they do from completely different directions, the one as thinker, the other as composer. Presumably they are, to judge from some surprising similarities in their texts. Heidegger, steeped in the Western metaphysical tradition, comes to silence from there, perhaps via Meister Eckhart most of all. Cage, immersed in Indian and Zen thinking, comes to silence from there, but perhaps also via Meister Eckhart and above all by thinking about music. Where Cage discovers duration to be the most fundamental element of music, he is imagining linear time in a metaphysical manner, but where he talks about each sound being the Buddha in the openness of silence, he is, unknowingly, closer to Heidegger's thinking. Nowhere, however, does Cage talk about ecstatic time as the three-dimensional time-space, nor does he grapple with the Western tradition's texts on time, starting with Aristotle. 

    Ecstatic time as rethought by Heidegger needs to be brought closer to what Cage has done with and to music, proceeding from what Heidegger has done with and to metaphysical thinking. 

    In one of his late lectures from 1964 entitled 'The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking', Heidegger interprets once again Parmenides' fragments and comes to the "tranquil heart of the clearing" as the "place of stillness" (29). We take this text to flesh out the references above to time-space because allusions to the foursome of world, after having been prevalent in the fifties (30), are again absent. Only from this place of stillness, says Heidegger, can "presence presence". (ibid.

      The clearing grants, before everything else, the possibility of the path to presence and grants the possible presencing of the latter itself. (op. cit. p.75)
    It is a matter of stillness being the clearing in which presencing can happen, thus opening up the possibility of a "belonging together of being and thinking, i.e. presence and taking-in". (ibid.) Presence in the broad sense talked about here includes absence, and there are two basic modes of absence that constitute the other two dimensions of time. Time, as Heidegger says in another talk given late in life, is the "provisional name for what is later called 'the truth of being'" (31), i.e. the clearing or aletheia. Silence is the stillness of time, which is given by the event. The three ecstasies of time, the present, the future and foregoneness are all ways of presencing, albeit that the latter two are modes of absence. Heidegger characterizes these modes of absence respectively as refusal and withholding. The three dimensions of time are brought together and held apart by the play of nearing, which is called the fourth dimension of time. Nearness 
      holds the foregone open by refusing its arrival as the present. This nearing of nearness holds arrival from the future open by, in its coming, withholding the present. Nearing nearness has the character of refusal and withholding. It holds in advance the modes of passing foregoneness, arrival and present to each other in their unity. (32)
    There is nothing in Cage's writings corresponding to this thinking-through of refusal and withholding, but there is perhaps something in Cage's music that comes close to them or is even essentially the same thing. Refusal is another, positive way of saying 'no longer', and withholding is another, positive way of saying 'not yet'. Cage's music happens in the time-space of time and must be thought three-dimensionally, taking into account this temporal refusal and temporal withholding. 

    Nearness passes over the play of time by passing one ecstasy of time to the other in a way that also keeps them apart. With respect to music, this passing concerns not the way sounds come and go but the clearing of time in which the sounds come and go. For Cage, this clearing is the silence he speaks about as primary, or "the space and emptiness that is finally urgently necessary", the space and emptiness in which "each sound may become the Buddha", but more importantly, the space and emptiness that can be experienced as such because of the sounds that come and go. Can this be heard in Cage's music? I think it can, precisely because his music is not a continuity of interrelated sounds but the bursting of sounds in the present. The sounds are not primary, they are not in the foreground, but they allow the openness of the time-space in which they sound to be experienced in its inaccessible and unmanipulable withdrawal. By not being interrelated in anything like a melody line constituting the continuity of the piece, each sound is a surprise, existing in and for itself and erupting into presence unannounced. Each sound does not contribute to a continuity or the development of an aural whole. The sound that has resounded is gone into the dimension of foregoneness and can only be recalled in the memory of the listener. Its presence is now refused in the present, leaving it open to other sounds arriving from the future. The foregone sound has not formed a basis for a continual development of sounds but is embedded in silence. Thus the refusal of the present can be experienced in not being heard. The sound sounds and is gone. It has no job to do in a larger continuity; it is sufficient in itself. It comes and goes into foregoneness without leaving a legacy, without building up anything to come that should proceed 'logically' from it. It does not draw another sound after itself but breaks off its ties with the present, leaving it open for anything to come. Although remembered by its auditors, the foregone sound leaves no preconceived aftereffects. This leaving-open is experienced in not being heard. The sound arriving from the future is not announced by a preceding development, it is not drawn out of the future by a continuity or a progression having gone before, but is held back in coming in the future before it arrives in the present. Not the sound that has not yet arrived is primarily to be experienced here but the holding back, the withholding itself of the future which nearness keeps separated from the present in holding it back. Out of the withholding of the future, the coming sound enters the present, unforeseen and unforeheard, to sound in and for itself. Not being part of a continuity, it is surrounded by the openness of silence. Thus the withholding of the future is experienced in not being heard. 

    Cagean music is originarily silence as the three-dimensional clearing of time-space, and only secondarily defineable as something that can be heard. What Cage composes is not music as a putting together of sounds. His music is not primarily sound, and has nothing to do with Cage, because it is pregiven. Cage steps back before the clearing of time-space. His music makes the step back able to be experienced. It is doubtful whether Cage can be thought of as a composer in anything like the traditional sense. Perhaps he is indeed an amateur, a lover and absconds as a composer. 

    Although Cage does not think his silence like Heidegger thinks his, there is every indication that Cage's music and Heidegger's thinking are based on one and the same experience of the clearing of time-space and the presencing within it. This silence cannot be determined at all with reference to sound (entities); it is thus also not the unintentional sound as which Cage sometimes defines it, but is the nothingness and rich emptiness of the clearing itself, the event of the opening up of time of which human being partakes and into which it is thrown. Cage's art and Heidegger's thinking, without having communicated with each other, belong to the same historical event of the end of metaphysics and the step back. 

    In a first approximation, Cage's art can be described negatively as a departure from techne, the renunciation of technique as foreknowledge and foreknowledge as technique. But where does this step back lead? It leads to nothing, namely, to the nothingness of the clearing of time-space, the event of presencing in the clearing. In this way, Cage's artless art can be thought positively. It is simplicity itself, which is the hardest of all to experience and grasp. Thus Cage can say that art is like "getting bitten by a monkey". Why? Because experiencing art and getting bitten by a monkey can both only happen in the primordial clearing of time-space. There is nothing essential to distinguish art from life once one takes leave of art as techne. Cage is the artist absconditus and thus an important historical figure prefiguring a possible step back from a directedness towards entities. Only the open clearing of time-space is originary; no entity can take on the role of the event of being, even if one calls this entity God. The sounds may become Buddha, but only within the originary emptiness. 

    The event of time-space reaches us as humans and makes us into human beings by calling us into the clearing. We do not only take in what happens, the events that occur, the entities that impinge on us, but more originarily, the play of presencing itself. This is what Heidegger calls the event or the happening. The happening happens, and that's all there is to it. On this basis, art can only become artless, amateurish and the artist a lover, doing things "in the dark". 

    12. Cage's technological credulity

    After having said all this about Cage's daring and breathtaking departure from Western techne, it comes as a surprise and disappointment to find him, later in life, naively believing in technological progress as a cure-all for the ills of humankind. But his adherence to the viewpoints of the American technological Utopian, Buckminster Fuller, amounts to nothing less. An irrepressible optimism bordering on simple-mindedness becomes noticeable. By means of the enormous increases in productivity made possible by technology, the problem of the distribution of the world's resources is to be solved. There is a big shift in Cage's concerns from the mid-sixties on, which goes so far as the following tit-bit, published in the third part of his Diary in 1967:
      She asked me whether it was true that art no longer interests me. I said I thought we'd done it, opened our eyes, our ears. What's urgent is society, not fixing it, but changing it, so it works.
    The sub-title to the diary, "You will only make Matters worse", contains some self-irony, but Cage is nevertheless seriously intent on improving the world. He maintains that inequality of distribution is the cause of wars so that, after its removal, "there will then be no rational reason for war" (33)(as if war were based on a rationality of distribution). There is a chasm between Cage's startlingly naive views on technology and his understanding of Eastern ways of thinking that had such profound effects on his work as a creative artist. Here, one has to think about Heidegger's remark:
      It is my conviction that a turn-around can only be prepared at the same world-location at which the modern technical world arose and that this cannot happen by adopting Zen Buddhism or other Eastern experiences of the world. (34)
    Cage, as far as I can ascertain, did not read Western philosophy. He did not immerse himself in and wrestle with its texts. Apart from books from Eastern authors such as Suzuki, Sri Ramakrishna and Huang-Po, Cage was influenced by American thinkers such as Marshall McLuhan and Fuller. The only traditional European author he cites as having influenced him is Meister Eckhart. Reflection on the metaphysical foundations of his own thinking is thus noticeably absent and unworked-out. This deficit, it seems to me, allows him to fall for technicist solutions. He has a benevolent understanding of human being, thinking, following Fuller, that it is largely a practical matter of "making life on earth an unequivocal success". (35) Without being aware of it, Cage asks the historical question of who we are with his art on a very deep level, but on the level of his political understanding, he imagines human being as something innocuous, as if hate, envy, greed, spite, etc. were peripheral to it. For him the problem of war could be solved by rational means, by redistributing wealth and abolishing private ownership, whereas his art, by relinguishing techne, has taken leave of this very same rationality. If, however, Cage's art dovetails with the historical question of who we are in the West, then rationality and technology cannot be left untouched. Both become questionable. In particular, - and this results in Cage's fatal lapse into do-goodery - technology cannot be regarded as a means to be put to good ends or bad, as Fuller and Cage would have it, but must be seen as part of our being that has taken us over: we exist today in the clearing cleared by a (Cartesian) metaphysical casting of time-space that has made mathematical scientific knowledge possible. If this clearing now becomes inhabited by elements we cannot grasp with knowledge, i.e. if entities become essentially contingent, we change. Our being is then infected by what we cannot control and we need to respond with another ethos that can let be. Rationality, which has always been associated with the light that reason brings into the darkness of ignorance, loses its throne at the apex of human being. It is not what we know, and what we can do with that knowledge, that defines us essentially as human beings, but what we do not know. What we do not and can not know is, in the first place, the event of being that, itself withdrawn, grants us the time-space in which we exist. In the second place, however, we do not and can not know the contingent. And this is not a lack or defect of human being.

    Cage's technological credulity is an offspring of American pragmatism, a way of thinking that he was apparently imbued with by his father, the inventor. In this attitude there is something of the conviction of being able to do anything if you just put your mind to it. As a late variant of metaphysics, pragmatism is embedded in metaphysical presuppositions it cannot think through from within itself. The step back that Cage performs with his art, however, makes the knowing of technology visible as being a possibility only granted by the clearing of being. The doability resulting from technological know-how cannot be an originary ethos because it depends on the more originary openness of being in which entities can appear as entities. On the basement floor level of the clearing of being, there is no know-how but instead the mooded acceptance of being, which precedes even the acceptance of beings. Being can only be accepted because it grants itself to human being-there. The clearing of time-space first provides the opening for entities to come and go. At first it is not important how and why they come and go, but simply that they come and go as they are, that is, as entities. This givenness of entities as they are by the event of being means that what is there accidentally, at random, by chance, at haphazard is on an equal footing with what can be explained, theorized, controlled, which, in fact, constitutes only a small part of what happens in the clearing of the truth of being.

    In emulating Fuller, Cage treats technology as a means for solving humanity's problems. What stands in the way is allegedly private property, divisive intelligence, dog eat dog politics and the like. Cage demands a global way of thinking and problem-solving rather than a particularistic one. In view of the global village, his message is: come together. He regards wars, etc. as "part of dying political and economic structures" (36), as if capitalism were coming of its own accord to an end to give way to anarchistic cooperation. Economics and politics are singled out as what has to be done away with.

      The problem of work is solved. Machines take the place of muscles. We've not yet the right to object to war. First we must disarm, then implement means for making the world's resources the possession of all men. (ibid. Pt.2)
    These are exhortative remarks. Is social change to be had through exhortation, i.e. agitation of a certain type? Is profound social change a matter of commitment? Does it depend on human will? In Cage's Utopia, human need will be satisfied:
      The question is, what are the things everyone needs, regardless of likes and dislikes. Beginning of answer: water, food, shelter, clothing, electricity, audio-visual communication, transportation. Form of answer: global utilities network. (...) Everyone will have what he needs, wanting things that are scarce, he'll make them, find them, get them as long as the supply lasts in return for having done something machines don't do. (ibid. Pts.1 & 2)
    Human being is thought here as needy. The fulfilment of human being would be the fulfilment of human needs. For such a conception, there is no excess (37), no immoderation. Immoderation comes from outside, externally, in the guise, say, of private property, which divides humans. But if human being is originarily excessive and indeed dreadful, then it does not suffice to satisfy human needs. Nor does it suffice to imagine that a change in human being could be brought about on the level of practical activity, since Western humanity has long since been cast metaphysically, i.e. whether we know it or not, we are who we are through the thinking and art that, since the Greeks, have wrested a self-definition of humanity from being. The question today is, what new twist can be given to this history. Activist strategies such as Cage propagated and practised misunderstand the essence of praxis by overseeing that thinking and art themselves are practices, indeed fundamental practices. With respect to the former, Heidegger writes:
      Thinking acts by thinking. This action is presumably the most simple action and at the same the highest action because it concerns the relation of being to humans. (38)
    Cage was far removed from this insight, which would have made his activism superfluous.

      1. Jacques Derrida formulates this in the following way: "Perhaps Heidegger said to himself, I could only damn National Socialism if this were possible in a language not only on the same plane as what I have already said, but on the plane of what happened here. He was not capable of this." 'Heideggers Schweigen' in Antwort: Martin Heidegger im Gespräch G. Neske u. E. Kettering (eds.), Neske Verlag, Pfullingen 1988, S.160. He is referring to Heideggers "silence after the war concerning Auschwitz and lots more", which Derrida terms "a wounding of thinking". Heidegger was not silent, however, but partly spoke evasively (as in Das Rektorat 1933/34), partly not on a plane adequate to his thinking (in lectures in the thirties and forties), and partly expressed himself shockingly briefly (as in 'The Set-up' GA79). Cf. also the long footnote below. Back 

      3. M. Heidegger Gesamtausgabe (GA=Complete Edition) Klostermann Verlag, Frankfurt/M. Bd.53 p.106 (GA53:106). Back 

      5. GA53:98. Back

      7. 'Spiegel-Gespräch mit Martin Heidegger' in Antwort - Martin Heidegger im Gespräch Eds. Günther Neske and Emil Kettering, Pfullingen 1988 p.110. Back 

      9. See also my essays 'Sprache (und Musik) nach Heidegger' in: M. Eldred (ed.) Twisting Heidegger Junghans Verlag, Cuxhaven 1993 pp.153-178 (included in Entständigung ) and 'The Quivering of Propriation: A Parallel Way to Music'. Back 

      11. GA65:98; cf. e.g. as an indication the use of the word 'cannibalization' to describe the recycling of electronic waste material. Back 

      13. GA65:99 Following Heidegger, the archaic spelling of being as beyng (Seyn) is retained throughout in this paper to signify beyng as the beginning. Back 

      15. Here I am relying on the book by Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe Die Fiktion des Politischen Stuttgart 1990 (French. Paris 1987), in particular on the conclusion pp.164f. Back 

      17. M. Heidegger Das Rektorat 1933/34 op. cit. p.22. Back 

      19. Perhaps not quite: Heidegger left behind a text written in 1945, Das Rektorat 1933/34 (Klostermann, Frankfurt/M. 1983), that was published by his son only after his death. If during his lifetime Heidegger did not face up squarely to his commitment to National Socialism, he also does not do it posthumously. The episode is made innocuous and restricted to "facts" concerning his rectorship, which he describes as "the insignificant case, taken for itself ". Not a word about the 'fact' of joining the Nazi party. The moral evasion consists in declaring one's own actions to be "insignificant" within a larger movement, namely "within the total movement of the planetary will to power" (p.40). A moral exculpation cannot take place by changing perspective to a global view. Apart from the disappointing excuses, this evasion is accompanied by consequences for thinking which the present paper attempts to outline. Back 

      21. M. Heidegger Das Rektorat 1933/34 Klostermann, Frankfurt/M. 1983 p.43. Back

      23. GA39:1 Preliminary Remark. Back

      25. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe op. cit. p.31. Back

      27. Cage 'Composition' in: Silence p.59. Back

      29. Morton Feldman Essays ed. Walter Zimmermann, Beginner Press, Kerpen 1985 p.131. Back 

      31. John Cage 'More Satie' in John Cage: An Anthology ed. Richard Kostelanetz, Da Capo, New York 1970/1991 p.93. Back

      33. Cage 'Forerunners of Modern Music' in: Silence p.62. Back

      35. Kostelanetz (ed.) op cit. p.18. Back 

      37. Morton Feldman Essays ed. W. Zimmermann, Beginner Press, Kerpen 1985 p.157. Back  

      39. Kostelanetz (ed.) op. cit. p.117. Back

      41. Cage, 'Composition' in: Silence p.59. Back

      43. M. Heidegger 'Die Sprache' in: Unterwegs zur Sprache Neske Verlag, Pfullingen 1959 p.30. Back

      45. Notes to CD version of Cage's Diary op. cit. Back

      47. Notes to CD John Cage 45' for a speaker and other works, hat ART CD 2-6070, Hat Hut Records, Switzerland 1991. Back

      49. Quoted in ibid. p.148. Back

      51. "the eye itself, that most pure spirit of sense..." W. Shakespeare Troilus and Cressida 3:3:100.  Back

      53. John Cage Diary op. cit. Part 2. Back

      55. Cage 'History of experimental music in the United States' in: Silence p.68. Back

      57. M. Heidegger 'Das Ende der Philosophie und die Aufgabe des Denkens' in: Zur Sache des Denkens Niemeyer, Tübingen 19762 p.75. Back

      59. Cf. M. Heidegger Vorträge und Aufsätze 1954 and Unterwegs zur Sprache 1959, both published by Neske Verlag, Pfullingen. Back

      61. Heidegger 'Protokoll zu einem Seminar über den Vortrag "Zeit und Sein"' in op. cit. p.30. Back

      63. Heidegger 'Zeit und Sein' in op. cit. p.16. Back

      65. Kostelanetz (ed.) op cit. p.171. Back

      67. 'Spiegel-Gespräch mit Martin Heidegger' in Antwort: Martin Heidegger im Gespräch p.107, my translation. Back

      69. Foreword to M Writings '67-'72, quoted in the notes to the CD edition of the Diary, Wergo 1992. Back

      71. J. Cage Diary op. cit. Part 1. Back

      73. On excess and needs, cf. my study Capital and Technology: Marx and Heidegger. Back

      75. M. Heidegger 'Brief über den Humanismus' in Wegmarken Klostermann Frankfurt/M. 11967, 21978 p.311, my translation. Back

      77. -- Back

      79. -- Back

      81. -- Back

      83. -- Back

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