24 July 2012
Articles | Blog | Morsels

Letter: Woody Guthrie x John Cage

American folk hero pens an unlikely fan letter to the avant garde composer

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Woody Guthrie, a big fan of John Cage? It’s not a link many of us would automatically make, but this letter penned by the former in 1947 has other ideas. In the missive, Guthrie writes that “John Cage and [composer contemporary] Alan Hovhaness have caught and handed over to us a whole forest and desert mountain full of these fine things that would be looked down on or looked over in bashful weakness by ninety nine out of a hundred second raters in every window.”

An article by Mark Swed on James Tenney’s interpretations of Cage’s work sheds further light on the unlikely fan letter.

Swed writes: “In 1947, Maro Ajemian, for whom “Sonatas and Interludes” was written, recorded the prepared piano solos from Cage’s “Amores.” One evening that summer, folk legend Woody Guthrie wrote a fan letter to the Disc Co. of America, as he listened to the scratchy 78 rpm disc. “I need something like this oddstriking music,” he began in the postscript, “to match the things I feel in my soul tonight.” (The singer also wrote that that morning, his wife, Marjorie, had “given birth to a big 7-pound boy” –Arlo.)”

Read Woody’s letter in full below:

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