John Cage (1912-1992)

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Empty Words (Part III) (1977)

  1. Empty Words, Part I (74:43)
  2. Empty Words, Part II (74:18)

Based on the writing of Henry David Thoreau
Live at Teatro Lirico Di Milano
December 2, 1977

When John Cage took to the stage at Milan's Teatro Lirico on 2 December 1977 to read from a portion of his not yet published book, Empty Words, little did he know that he was about to incite one of the great art riots of the twentieth century! As Cage reads aloud in what sounds like a nonsensical language (the result of using the I-Ching to extract a series of sounds and syllables from the Journal of Henry David Thoreau), the Italian audience (many of whom did not really know who Cage was or what to expect from the performance) begins to grow increasingly unruly, eventually yelling for Cage to get off the stage! Cage, however, simply ignores it and keeps right on reading above the din (for over 2 full hours).