It wasn’t, perhaps, a very fine day to be at Harvard for the first of the six prestigious Charles Eliot Norton Lectures to be given in the current academic year by John Cage, America’s foremost avant-garde . . . well, shall we say, influence? Outside, as befits the middle of October in New England, the weather was grey and cold, with a fresh wind blowing. Inside, I found myself standing in gloomy Memorial Hall, waiting for the inner doors to open on Sanders Theatre, where Mr. Cage was to . . . well, shall we say, perform? Perhaps I should not stress the gloom, for the walls of Memorial Hall are also deeply moving, emblazoned as they are with plaques commemorating, by name, birthdate, college major, and battlefield, the Harvard dead in the Civil War, certainly the last of America’s wars still considered totally acceptable in today’s best schools. With a half hour still to go, and the doors to Sanders...


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