Okay, I first remember reading about John Cage in a story by Alex Ross of The New Yorker. The piece opened with a description of the 1952 performance of John Cage’s composition, 4’33”, which turned out to be four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. It’s a bit more complicated than that, or maybe not, but you can read more via this article link. John Cage and silence came to mind recently because I was sharing a video I’d made with the physicist in my life and when I asked him what piece of music should I pair with these images, he suggested, “soundtrack by John Cage.”
At first I thought he was kidding. There had to be a short classical piece to fit the light and motion so reminiscent of northern lights. When I’d asked him what music to pair with a short video of sunlit water flowing over rocks, he’d suggested Faure’s Requiem in Paradisum. Now he recommended silence? On my own, I found Bartock’s Evening in the Village. I tried the pairing. He appreciated Bartok but he still favored Cage. I read a bit more about Cage, his compositions, his performances, his poetry … an interesting man to say the last.
So what I captured on the wall one morning took place in less than four minutes and thirty-three seconds. It involved a rippled window, a different one in the house. Light shone down through the gaps in the leaves and branches of the oak tree that towers over the house. That light made its way through the glass refracting through the ripples producing a dynamic pattern of caustics on the wall. Most often that pattern of light is static but this particular morning the wind was blowing. The branches and the leaves they moved creating what that physicist described as “a pattern of illumination that varied in space and time.” It was a good moment inspiring some experimentation as you can see in the video below. The flickering on the wall is as it happened … in less than four minutes and thirty-three seconds.