The one time that I saw him up close, he was delivering the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures, at Harvard. Eminences of the faculty had gathered in Memorial Hall, possibly laboring under the illusion that in such august company Cage would finally drop his games and explain himself. Unease rippled through the room as Cage began reciting a string of mesostics—acrostics in which the organizing word runs down the middle instead of the side:

Much of our
of borEdom
Toward talks in
it misled Him
diplOmatic skill to
place to place but Does it look
at present Most
fivE Iranian fishermen
cuTbacks would not

It went on like that, for six lectures, the verbal material generated randomly from Thoreau, Wittgenstein, and the Times, among other sources. Later, when Cage was asked what he thought of being a Harvard professor, he commented that it was “not much different from not being a Harvard professor.”

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