Black Mountain

After our lecture on John Cage and hearing the words “Black Mountain” being thrown around, I sought to find out what Black Mountain actually was. The school was founded in Black Mountain, North Carolina in 1933 and focused on both liberal and fine arts inside and outside of the classroom. It only took a few years for the school to really take off and soon it featured some of the greatest minds of the time. Among its first professors were Josef and Anni Albers, who fled Nazi Germany after the closing of the Bauhaus, as well as Walter Gropius, Willem de Kooning, and Buckminster Fuller. Albert Einstein was also on its Board of Directors. They closed their doors in 1953 after only twenty years, but the students and faculty realized that the school had achieved its goals in expanding the possibilities of an American education. After reading more about John Cage and his process of turning ordinary events into music, I came across the term “happening.” Happenings, used as a noun, are events or situations where artists set up a circumstance but leave room for improvisation. Cage, for example, set up twelve radios but left it to chance what exactly the radios would be playing. In high school, I participated in a workshop on happenings. Actually acting in a happening is different than just setting one up, you must listen to the words being spoken, music being played, etc., and connect it with how you feel. If what you hear makes you want to lay on the ground and look at the sky, then you do that. If it makes you want to dance, run, hug someone, stomp around, get angry, then you are free to express those things. Other examples of modern performance happenings are flash mobs, subway parties (masses of people boarding one train), etc. As I found out more about Black Mountain, I began to see how the connections people made there influenced their work and developed American culture. It influenced many other educational institutions with its cross-genre programs and experimental ideals.

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