In "Lecture on Nothing," John Cage compared a piece of music to a glass of milk. "We need the glass," he wrote, "and we need the milk."
At the invitation of the San Francisco Symphony on Saturday night, actor Tim Robbins read those lines with an eloquently genial whimsy, as if to exclaim, the way Cage often did: Isn't that marvelous?
The orchestra's principal clarinetist, Carey Bell, stationed on a balcony seat over the stage of Davies Symphony Hall, invoked the needed ambience of stunned stillness, the empty glass, with the opening of Cage's very early Sonata for Clarinet.
"Or again," Robbins further read from Cage, a piece of...