Having a really interesting conversation (over email) with Diane Borsato about the nature of residencies (she's in Paris right now). We're talking about time and isolationism and about the luxury of being able to determine what you want to do, vs what is wanted of you (commissions, curatorial themes, etc. etc.). I inadvertently stumbled across a great interview between two of my favorite musicians/thinkers, and both touch on the themes that we are talking about:
ENO: The reason to keep working is almost to build a certain mental tone, like people talk about body tone. You have to move quickly when the time comes, and the time might come very infrequently - once or twice a year, or even less.
The difficulty of always feeling that you ought to be doing Something is that you tend to undervalue the times when you're apparently doing nothing, and those are very important times. It's the equivalent of the dream time, in your daily life, times when things get sorted out and reshuffled. If you're constantly awake workwise you don't allow that to happen. One of the reasons I have to take distinct breaks when I work is to allow the momentum of a particular direction to run down, so that another one can establish itself.
then later in the interview, Cage adds:
I had a difficult time recently. I was commissioned to write a piece for organ, and I was sent half the commission in advance. And then a correspondence developed that explained that the piece that they really liked, I had written in 1948 (Dream), and would I please write something like that [laughter]. And so I sent the check back and said that I was not interested in repeating some past work and that I wanted to write something completely new. And then they said, Oh, please... They sent the check back, it kept bouncing back and forth from the west coast to the east. And they said, You can do anything you want. You have carte blanche. Then when I had carte blanche, I felt obliged to do what they wished [laughs]. And so I wrote a piece that will be played here in London shortly called Souvenir. And the title is obvious.
I love that he is ultimately acquiesces, but only after the right is granted to not have to. Like the story of the dog tied by a ten-foot leash to the backyard tree who barks and barks until he is freed, only to then rest in the shade of the branches all afternoon.