Where the Heart Beats by Kay Larson

The Penguin Press, New York, 2012, 496 print pages (including notes and an index)

Electronic and print editions available July 5, 2012
I am pleased to be the first stop on the Where the Heart Beats book blog tour presented by TLC Book Tours. Wanting to read some nonfiction, I was fortunate to be given Kay Larson’s first book. I think I enjoyed Where the Heart Beats because I knew absolutely nothing about John Cage, his life, his music, or his thirst for a spiritual direction and enlightenment. Being enlightened on whom one of the twentieth century’s most renowned and innovative composers was fascinating because he knew and collaborated with so many artists (including painters, writers, choreographers, etc.), some I am familiar with and many I am not. Learning about the history of artists and their friends has already introduced me to the Lost Generation. Now I have been introduced to a whole slew of post World War II artists of all sorts.

–author of Where the Heart Beats Kay Larson

I found the book to be a little daunting when I received it in the mail, but it is written in a manner that kept me interested. Much of the book has italicized thoughts from the viewpoint of John Cage, who passed away in 1992, an innovative technique by Ms. Larson that I enjoyed and found useful. Ms. Larson herself studied Zen Buddhism for an extended period of time. She was previously an art critic and reviewer so I can understand how her interest in Mr. Cage took root and blossomed into this book. 

Where the Heart Beats is divided into three main sections that are entitled using mountain metaphors. These sections are really follow Cage’s life as a young man, a more mature man at a crossroads of which direction to go or path to follow, and then his later life. I usually read about writers and/or painters, so this foray into music was a learning experience for me. 4′ 33 is one of Cage’s more known innovations and it reflects the Zen Buddhist idea of the negative space or the spaces between the notes that really shape a composition, but in the case of 4′ 33″, there are NO notes. Cage began reading about Eastern ideas back in the 1940s and they were definitely reflected in his works.

–John Cage (from Wikipedia)

If you didn’t know much about Mr. Cage, he was the long time collaborator and real life partner of the choreographer Merce Cunningham, someone I was a little more familiar with, but not much. So this book taught me more about his life as well. Just to name drop a few of the other people and/or artists that Cage knew, met, or worked with are Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, D.T. Suzuki, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, M.C. Richards, Joseph Campbell, Max Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, and countless others. Cage taught at The New School and the sculptor George Segal sat in on some of his classes at the time, before he was known for his “Pop Art sculptures.” 

The most fascinating ideas I was left with after reading the book are the concepts of interconnectivity and serendipity and the number of artists Cage influenced. Of course, reading some of D.T. Suzukis books would be helpful in today’s noisy world. 

  1 comment for “Where the Heart Beats by Kay Larson

  1. Jack C.
    July 6, 2012 at 9:18 PM

    4’33” is one of my favorite pieces of music. The middle part really moves me. The silence in the middle part is deafening and brings out the best in the performers.


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