Newly discovered copy of John Cage film ‘The Sun’ screens Saturday

Music Critic

Ask John Cage in 1956, as the sculptor Richard Lippold did, to make a film and you take your chances.

The composer was adamantly, and with increasing daring, using elaborate chance processes to create all his work. Still, Lippold, who was a close friend and neighbor of Cage, thought the composer would be just the person to edit a mass of footage shot during the three-year process of his making “The Sun,” a huge, geometric sculpture involving more than two miles of pure gold wire and now hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

But at one point Lippold became concerned about Cage’s unwavering nonjudgmental attitude toward his chance systems, the sculptor saying that he would really rather reserve the right not to use some frames of his work upside down, backward or overexposed.


Cage responded: “Oh Richard, you have a beautiful mind. It’s time you got rid of it!”

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That anecdote comes from a study of Cage and film by a young scholar, Richard Brown, who will introduce a newly discovered and restored copy of “The Sun, Variations Within a Sphere No. 10” -- or at least 14 of its original 20 minutes -- when it is shown for the first time in the U.S. at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Billy Wilder Theater of the Hammer Museum.

Cage’s film will be part of a program by the Center for Visual Music call “New Restorations and Discoveries.” The evening will include three early German animated films by Oskar Fischinger, whom Cage briefly assisted in Los Angeles in the 1930s, along with other historic gems.


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