For Richard Pinnell

If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.
So the most difficult thing is always to keep your beginner’s mind. There is no need to have a deep understanding of zen.

~ Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

The piece is not actually silent [there will never be silence until death comes which never comes]; it is full of sound, but sounds which I do not think of beforehand, which I hear for the first time the same time others hear. What we hear is determined by our own emptiness, our own receptivity; we receive to the extent we are empty to do so. If one is full, or in the course of its performance becomes full of an idea[…], then it is just that.

~John Cage, responding to a detractor of 4’33”, recalled by Christian Wolff

Photo: David Tudor performing 4’33”, 1952

2 Replies to “For Richard Pinnell”

  1. Jesse, this is very beautiful and touching thank you.

    For what it's worth, I still feel like a beginner when I sit down to listen every day.

    I have the Suzuki book you have quoted from by the way, I enjoyed it very much, but have probably not taken it down from its shelf in the best part of a decade. You have made me want to do that now though, thanks,


  2. I know you share a keen interest in the act of listening, what the listener brings to the music.
    The state of attention Suzuki and Cage are pointing to is developed, in zen, on a meditation cushion. It is useful when it is further developed in how we do everything. I strive and fail and strive to bring this relaxed but alert receptivity to the music. Without this, it all sounds stale, played out, enervated and so on.
    Lastly, I generally think, when reading others on new music, that they are saying as much about themselves as they are the music under discussion.


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