Diary: How to Read John Cage

by Maggie Molloy

For a composer who once created an entire piece out of silence, John Cage certainly had a lot to say. So much, in fact, that he recorded a five-hour diary in the years leading up to his death.


Titled “Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse),” the piece is written in eight parts, traversing vast musical and philosophical territory—often within the span of just a few sentence fragments. Cage’s writing extends far beyond the music itself, all the way into the trivial details of everyday life and back out into the vast expanse of history, global politics, philosophy, science, and society—and all with an idiosyncratic dose of humor and wit.

Inspired by his fearless exploration into the art of sound, I made it my mission to read through his entire diary and create my own personal diary tracking the experience. Click on the icons below to read each installment!

Introduction Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V Part VI Part VII Part VIII


by Maggie Stapleton

Seattle Modern Orchestra

Seattle Modern Orchestra.

In just a few years, Seattle Modern Orchestra has transformed from a dream of co-Artistic Directors Julia Tai and Jeremy Jolley into a thriving, professional organization fulfilling its mission – to provide Seattle audiences with live performances of the best in contemporary chamber and orchestral music, music seldom if ever performed in Seattle until now.  Attend an SMO concert and you’ll undoubtedly discover new music with unusual sounds, textures, forms, notation, and always with guidance and curation from Jeremy and Julia.

Seattle Modern Orchestra’s fourth season finale, Musical Commentaries, is this Friday, June 13, 8pm at the Good Shepherd Center Chapel Performance Space.  Earle Brown’s Tracking Pierrot, Joël-François Durand’s Le Tombeau de Rameau II (featuring pianist Cristina Valdes), and Franco Donatoni’s Tema are all on the bill, all following theme “Music on Music” – compositions that were written in tribute to compositions and composers of the past.

An encore (outreach!) performance of the Donatoni, accompanied by music of John Cage and solo violin works by Durand will be performed at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in Kent, WA on Sunday, June 15 at 2pm.

As we look ahead to Friday’s concert, let’s actually take a listen back at their February 21 performance, including music of Rebecca Saunders, Jonathan Harvey, Kaija Saariaho, and Jeremy Jolley, all featuring guest cellist Séverine Ballon.

Séverine also shared some insights about her love of music (new and old!), collaborating with composers on new works, searching for new sounds and experimenting and with the cello.  She also filled us in on her experience premiering works and working with students in master classes at Harvard University (where she was composer-in-residence in March 2013), Stuttgart Hochschule, Huddersfield University, UC Berkeley University, National University Singapore.

Tickets for the performance on June 13 are available through Brown Paper Tickets.  Don’t miss it!