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“Improvised” is a descriptive term we use for Shep’s radio broadcasts (The vast majority of them). The term may not be quite comprehensive enough to describe the works of John Cage, but there seems to have been an affinity that Cage had toward Shepherd’s work because apparently he was an early listener to Shepherd when he was on overnight (1:00-5:30 from January to August, 1956).
In a 1971 radio interview for KRAB-FM in Seattle, upon hearing that a Cage program follows the interview, Shepherd comments:
I’ll tell you one thing you may be interested in—John Cage was one of the very first men who called me at WOR when I first came on the air in New York City. John Cage. And he called me up—and we talked a lot. One of my first listeners. And then he got the idea one night when we were talking on the phone–of the thing that he did at Carnegie Hall with all the radios? Well, that came out of him listening to my show. That thing he did with all the conglomerate radios up on the stage.
On one of his broadcasts, Shepherd commented that Cage was going to use a bit of his (Shep’s) live broadcasts in one of his upcoming compositions. This would appear to have been during Shepherd’s 1956 overnight period, as he remembers it in the interview.
According to an Internet source, Cage wrote “Imaginary Landscape No 4” for twelve radios in 1951—four years before Shep came to NYC.
The source says: “In the mid- to late-1950s Cage would write three more works for radio, namely Speech (1955), Radio Music (1956), and Music Walk (1958),… The source says that “Radio Music” was first performed on May 30, 1956 at the Carl Fisher Hall in New York City “with artists John Cage, Maro Ajemain, David Tudor, Grete Sultan and the four members of the Juillard String Quartet.” Thus, it seems likely that Shepherd refers to “Radio Music” performed (not at Carnegie Hall, but Carl Fisher Hall) on that May 30, 1956—just a few months after he began broadcasting overnight in NYC.
I’ve done some Internet research, but have not encountered an audio done during that performance. Maybe it exists out there?
With Shepherd’s considerable interest in all manner of sounds and the nature of unscripted performance (including his own talks and the nature of jazz), he is likely to have been curious about Cage’s means of working and the resulting audios.
(3) ROSE, MUSEUM COORDINATOR AND ARTIST
Starting in 1967 when I began as an Exhibit Designer at the Museum of Natural History, and for many years, one of my coworkers was Rose, who coordinated information and general communications between me and curatorial departments for which I was designing exhibits—mostly the Invertebrate Hall and the Hall of Reptiles and Amphibians. She was very good and efficient at her job, and at the same time a sweet, caring, and gregarious friend to everyone. We became good friends.
When one opened a communication from her (in pre-Internet and pre email days) one was often delighted to encounter her cartoony and witty illustrations dominating the page, which usually referred pointedly to—and enhanced– the memo’s content. [Be sure to click to enlarge.]
Some of her artworks were also full-page and larger. I collected all of her illustrated pieces she sent to me, and also those sent to others willing to hand them over. [The above two yellow memos are on yellow paper, but the yellow and other discoloring of backgrounds are due to age.]
Although she was a bit embarrassed when someone such as myself showed off her work to others, one day, after I’d accumulated dozens of her pieces, and she seemed to be slowing down on her cartoon-work, I decided to do an exhibit of them. While she was out during a lunch hour, I pinned dozens of her works on the walls of the empty cubicle by which most of the employees would have to pass to get back to work. (That her anarchic wit filled a heretofore empty, sterile, and fascist cubicle, should be noted.)
[Back then, these almost instant-photos were known as “Polaroids.”]
She was shocked (as well as pleased)
and insisted that I take them down.
Eventually I did.
I’ve collected her works in a scrapbook,
and larger ones in big envelopes.
As designer of the “Herp Hall,” I got invited too.
Rose enjoyed giving parties, and enjoyed decorating for Christmas!
I always encouraged her to do more and more stuff, but she’d tapered off and stopped despite entreaties from me and my exhibit of her work.
I maintained my collection even after I retired. I framed several of her stand-alone larger pieces. Allison and I mounted a couple of them on our stairwell. Here’s one below. It’s about 11″ X 18.” We see it nightly from our living room. [The imperfectly matched halves of the rooster is caused by the two scans of these halves of a single sheet in the original, imperfectly joined by technical glitch–either in my ability or in the blog’s obstinacy.]
I wonder how she is now, and what she might be doing as joyous and creative as what she had done decades ago for the few brief years when she’d brought pleasure to the rest of us by combining her personality and efficient work with her spontaneous creativity.