Cage and Foucault
Musical timekeeping and the security.state
in Foucault’s theatres
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This chapter examines John Cage's musical practice in terms of its ambivalent parallels with two techniques of power that Foucault, in his 1978 lectures, Security, Territory, Population, suggests should be distinguished from one another – those of security and discipline. The chapter both develops and disputes Benjamin Piekut's application of Foucault's notion of discipline to the power dynamics inherent in Cage's practice. It highlights Foucault's attention to the differing ways in which discipline and security, as techniques of power, regulate time. And it argues that while Cage, in his 26'1.1499" for a String Player (1954), regulates time in a parallel manner to what Foucault calls discipline, in the 1952 event at Black Mountain College, Cage utilises a principle of aleatoric governance that instead provides a sonic and theatrical parallel to what Foucault calls security. This inconsistency in Cage's methods – within the same period – cannot be accounted for if we rely on the competing political metaphors – anarchistic or liberal – with which his work is usually described. Instead the chapter argues that Cage's practice, like Foucault's tripartite analysis of mechanisms of power in Security, Territory, Population, encompasses multiple techniques of governance through its disparate approaches to musical timekeeping.

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