Saturday, September 8, 2012

John Cage and the Harmony of Spores - Fungi and More - Updated



John Cage supported his early years composing music by hunting, gathering and selling mushrooms. He sold them to high end NYC restaurants. Cage even won a mushroom quiz contest in 1958 on Italian television.



What is truly fascinating about his passion for mushrooms is that he had a wonderful, sensorial appreciation for them. That sensorial appreciation was not defined exclusively by their shape or their scent, but something unexpected, at least to me when I first read about it. He saw a musical connection to the fungi. Imagine writing music and finding the sounds you notate in the unfurling spirals of fiddle-head buds or the bounce of  dew drops on the curvilinear triangles of orchid petals.

Here are three of sites I visited to read about Cage and Mushrooms: Harmony of the Spores , Sounds and Mushrooms and a YouTube video - Mushroom Haiku.
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Below is one of John Cage's one-minute compositions about "Music and Mushrooms" -

#113

Music   and   mushrooms:

       two   words   next   to   one
another   in   many   dictionaries.
                 Where   did   he
  write   The   Three-Penny   Opera?
                  Now   he’s  
buried   below   the   grass   at   the
 foot   of   High   Tor.
           Once   the   season   changes
  from   summer   to   fall,
        given   sufficient   rain,
              or   just   the  
mysterious   dampness   that’s   in   the
 earth,                  mushrooms
  grow   there,
 carrying   on,                  I
   am   sure,                  his
   business   of   working   with  
sounds.
                    That   we
 have   no   ears   to   hear   the
  music   the   spores   shot   off
 from   basidia   make   obliges   us
 to   busy   ourselves   microphonically.

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Look around the Montessori classroom and remind yourself that Maria's term for her pedagogical method is "Sensorial Education." Why not have students watch  leaves - those close to the ground and others high in the sky - move in the wind and have them sway with them and then note their beat. Compose the wind - compose the response of the leaves. For an excellent read see Geoff Manaugh's recent post "Sound Not As Memory" at his blog, "BLDGBLOG" about Rutger Zuydervelt's project,"Take A Closer Listen."

I was fortunate enough to see John Cage perform at the University of Rochester in 1997. Just before sitting down to the piano on the stage, he handed out photo copies of the composition that he was to perform. A woman in the back of the room raised her hand and said that she had not gotten a copy as there were not enough to go around. He stood up and walked to the front of the stage with his original in hand and asked her to come forward. He told her that she could have his copy if, that is, she didn't mind that he had written some notes on it. She returned to the back of the room with the paper in her hand and a lovely smile on her face. 

So after viewing / reading John Cage's words, if you find yourself thinking about making colorful, fungi classification cards for your classroom, I have a great site for you to print out a selection of wonderful images -//www.english-country-garden.com/fungus.htm. I found this great link via Kathy's Montessori Life .


Here is a single preview:

Laetiporus sulphureus  or "Chicken of the Woods."


Chicken of the Woods - Laetiporus sulphureus

For me, I have decided to bring a variety of mushrooms to The Bridge for next week's poetry/prose writing group held on Thursday afternoons. I will provide an opportunity during group for each of the participating seniors to hold, smell and taste, if they choose, a sampling of the fungi. I will post their poetic responses here afterwords. In the mean time, I think I will make fungi classification cards for their use also.

Here in Juneau, I spent the evening cooking up a plateful of "Chicken of the Woods" mushrooms and I confess that the name rings true. The gal that swapped me the mushrooms for my ceramic, bead necklace when I stopped by the Farmer's Market Festival yesterday told me to cut away the lower segment of the fungi and dispose of it, as it was very woodsy tasting and often caused stomach aches when digested. The upper segment was to be cut into strips and then par boiled. I followed her directions exactly.



Next, she had instructed that I dip the pieces into a little bit of egg and milk mixture before dredging them in panko bread crumbs. Again, I followed each of her steps. I placed the prepared strips in a frying pan that contained heated olive oil. The sizzling feast had my stomach growling before they were even finished.



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And when they were finished, I devoured a plateful. Soooo good!

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