|Marcel Duchamp and John Cage playing chess at the Ryerson Theatre in Toronto in 1968.|
I was seventeen years old and could not get a ticket to the sold-out event, indeed I was not alone on the sidewalk in the pouring rain, for many other puzzled onlookers were keeping me company. The only difference between us, I quickly surmised, was that I realized I was observing one of the seminal moments in our contemporary culture: the virtual triumph of dissonance within the arts. Though I was not therefore able to be an eyewitness to this incredible event, appreciative as I was of the consequences of its hidden meanings for our shared global culture, that acceptance allowed me to become something perhaps even more intriguing. I was an earwitness to history’s following announcement: anything goes now, so get used to it. After all, we had certainly had a long enough time to acclimatize ourselves to the remarkable presence of disharmony and radical discontinuity in all aspects of artistic pursuit, and not just in music, but in all avenues of creative expression. Yet the challenge remained, and perhaps still remains to this day. How able were we to adapt to the fact that modernism meant that the classical rules of proportion, harmony, even presumed beauty, were being assailed from every side. And this was not new. The urge to introduce noise into the arts really began, albeit in a piecemeal fashion, ages ago, but it did pick up quite a head of collective steam in the twentieth century.