"Galka Scheyer had introduced Cage (and Edgar Varese) to Fischinger shortly after his arrival in America (1936) in the hope that Cage might provide Fischinger with some original and modernist music more suited to the extraordinary, radical potential of his animations. Fischinger, round and jolly as a Chinese Buddha, explained to Cage that he had tried writing sound himself a few years earlier by drawing ornaments and photographing them into the soundtrack area of film so that their inherent spirit, that gave them visual shape, might also be released to give them equivalent auditory values. This notion that each object contained its intrinsic sound spirit - undoubtedly articulated with bilingual aleatory whimsy - intrigued Cage immensely and led him to embark on his percussion pieces. When Cage proposed doing a soundtrack of percussion music for one of Fischinger's films, Fischinger suggested that Cage should actually work on animating a film to better understand the process and potential of the medium: that incredible freezing of time, and that tedious thawing. Cage dutifully came to observe and help Fischinger on his current work-in-progress, Optical Poem, for which dozens of paper objects were suspended on strings throughout the deep space of a stage area. Cage's lesson involved taking over from Fischinger the long pole topped by a chicken feather with which each circle would have to be moved to a small, even increment, then steadied to motionlessness in preparation for the next exposure. Fischinger merrily sat beside the camera, puffing his smoke, supervising, waiting for the next take. But in the hands of a novice, the set-up took such a long time! Gradually Fischinger dozed, and his cigar, falling to the floor, ignited some rags and papers lying nearby. Cage seized a bucket of water and splashed it over the fire, coincidentally inundating the camera. That was the end of John Cage's apprenticeship in film (though Fischinger wrote him a few years later asking if he had ever done a suitable music track)."
via calvin thompkins, the bride and the bachelors
Labels: film and sound, fischinger, john cage, optical poems