Excerpts from Corriere della Sera and from Corriere d'Informazione
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, January 18, 1959:
RAI-TV revealed the names of the new participants in the next Lascia o raddoppia quiz show. They are Antonietta Raule from Rovigo, saleswoman (on Don Quixote), John Cage from New York, composer (on mushrooms)...
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, January 22, 1959:
... tonight we should see some of these contestants in front of the cameras: Ms. Antonietta Raule who will answer questions about the novel Don Quixote, the American composer John Cage who chose to be tested on mushrooms...
Corriere d’Informazione, pag 9, January 22-23, 1959:
The International University Club presented a concert of modern music at the Ambrosianeum, if such term can be used. The event featured together with John Cage, musicians like La Rosa, Hidalgo, Marchetti and others. Applause as well as protests from the audience in the hall.
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, January 29, 1959:
Three new partecipants in Lascia o raddoppia, three names already scheduled last week. The American composer John Cage, pupil of Schoenberg, and considered one of the most interesting figures of modern music, is participating as a mycologist, that is, a mushroom expert, he will return to music for a bit and perform a piece of music before answering the quiz questions.
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, January 30, 1959:
The performance of the second contestant, the American composer John Cage, wasn’t as funny and entertaining although it was not his fault, but in his poor Italian and his quick English, the Latin names of the various species of mushrooms (already quite difficult to the novice) were deformed so much, that it was difficult for the tv audience to follow the competition, which resulted in a jargonish dialog between Bongiorno and Cage.
Nevertheless, at least the prelude to the quiz was funny, or somehow curious. Mr. Cage is a composer of experimental music for which screws and bolts need to be inserted among the strings of a piano to alter its sounds. Mr. Cage performed a piece called Amores on such a transformed instrument which emanated a rather singular, though acid, timbre.
Bongiorno quickly said that such a performance reminded him of an out-of-tune piano; we are a bit more cautious about aesthetics and we will suspend the judgement, for now. Anyway, Mr Cage, a tall man with strong facial features marking his cheeks like scars (a moviestar kind of a face), did not lose his aplomb. It seems that among the unusal instruments he used there were buckets of water to be poured at precise timings. We will have a better idea about this to be seen (as Cage himself stated) music, next time.
Corriere d’Informazione, pag 9, January 30, 1059:
The debut of the other contestant, the composer John Cage from Stony Point (New York) an enthusiast of mushrooms in his spare time, was standard. Mr. Cage, pupil of Schoenberg, performed a piece of his music without really convincing Mike Bongiorno as well as the audience.
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, February 5, 1959:
American composer John Cage steps into the booth to answer questions about mycology for the 640000 Lire jackpot. We already noticed that – though we don’t want to sound disrespectful towards other mushrooms experts – these kinds of questions are quite bland for the audience which is not able to elaborate its own precise idea about the subject, an indispensable premise to satisfy any curiosity or debate. Moreover, the slides showing various species of mushrooms are not really spectacular. Once again the contestant, a lanky American, offered the best part of the show in spite of Bongiorno’s remarks against his experimental music based on screws and bolts. Mr. Cage has promised for tonight the performance of a piece where water buckets will be employed as well.
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, February 6, 1959:
The happy, or at least peculiar, face of the evening was provided by another of the 640000 Lire contestants, the American composer John Cage, mushroom expert. His major contribution weren’t the correct answers he gave to Bongiorno, indicating type and species of some coral fungi, rather a short concert of experimental music by means of unorthodox instruments. Among these, so to speak, instruments there were: some radios (meant to emanate hisses and screeches), a seltzer siphon, a bowl of water, a grinder, a mechanical fish, a watering can, a bunch of roses, a boiling pressure cooker with its hiss and finally one of those rubber ducks for children. With these and other musical means (hitting the piano with his elbows, for example), Mr. Cage performed a Water walk.
I am aware that in these cases it’s too easy to be ironic. Memory recalled inevitably the Futurist evenings with the intonarumori; time goes so fast in the arts that we always risk ending on the next artistic movement without realizing it and thus making a bad impression. Bongiorno was shocked, while the audience enjoyed, laughed and applauded the event.
Corriere d’Informazione, pag 9, 6-7 febbraio 1959:
... the other 640000 Lire contestants, John Cage (mushrooms), went on smoothly....
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, February 12, 1959:
There are two contestants for 1 million and 280000 Lire: the operetta enthusiast Vincenzo Maccarrone and the composer who knows everything about mushrooms, John Cage. The opera singer Graziella Sciutti will pose the questions to Mr. Maccarrone, while for the musical part of his performance, the expert of American mushrooms does not need any assistance. Last Thursday Bongiorno startled while staring at Mr Cage dipping a bunch of roses in a tub or drinking a glass of water, gestures that were suddenly elevated to the musical ranks (those were in fact some of the instruments used during the concert). We don’t know what this unorthodox composer has prepared this time for the audience of Lascia o raddoppia. Perhaps the funniest side of his performance lies in the ceaseless ambiguity left in those who experience it: is Mr. Cage serious, is he playing, or does he keep himself on the insidious border between truthfulness and self-irony?
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, February 13, 1959:
Two contestants were competing for the 1 million and 280000 Lire prize: the opera expert Vincenzo Maccarrone and the mushroom man, the American composer John Cage... Mr. Cage, before entering the booth and giving the precise measurement in micron of the spores of boletus edulis, had us listen to his latest work: a rather sarcastic, so to speak, collage of excerpts from his last week performance recorded on magnetic tape.
Corriere d’Informazione, pag 9, February 13-14, 1959:
Both the 1 million and 280000 Lire contestants made it through: Mr. Maccarrone (operetta) greeted by opera singer Graziella Sciutti, and Mr. John Cage (mushrooms) who showcased another noise concert, which, if not as thrilling as the previous ones, was at least humourous. Subject: Mike Bongiorno and John Cage. Execution: the parody of the two characters obtained through a few meters of magnetic tape on which were recorded, the repetitions, misundertandings and gaffes during their previous dialogs during the quiz show, accompanied by screeches and various cacophonies. As we said in the beginning, Mike Bongiorno was the first one who smiled at it.
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, February 15, 1959:
Two contestants reached the 2.5 million Lire question: the operetta fanatic Vincenzo Maccarrone and the American composer John Cage, who chose mycology.
... another foreigner joins the already long list of contestants who have participated in the show „Lascia o raddoppia“ from outside Italy. It’s Mr. Cage from Stony Point (United States), a composer expert in mushrooms.
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, February 19, 1959:
The top contestants (tonight they will face the 2.5 million Lire question) are the operetta expert Vincenzo Maccarrone who doesn’t seem to be willing to be caught off guard, and the American composer who answers on mushrooms, John Cage. Bongiorno and Mr. Cage took turns of making fun of each other. The first one making fun of a concert based on pressure cookers and hits on the piano with elbows presented by the contestant two weeks ago; the second, maliciously, concocting a magnetic tape filled with Bongiorno’s typical expression
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, February 20, 1959:
The 2.5 million Lire performance of the American composer John Cage, who knows everything about mushrooms and who rapidly recognized among seven pictures the polipolus frondosus to inform us that it is an edible mushroom which grows on wood, was much less risky. However, the audience is more interested in the music he promotes, specially in the instruments he uses to make it, rather than the subject he is interrogated on. Yesterday we noticed on stage: a) a giant spring connected to a microphone that, if delicately hit, sounded like a machine gun, b) a hunting horn, c) a sort of putipù (a Southern Italy folk instrument), d) a water pitcher with additional tub, e) a broom, f) a piano, g) a huge bell, h) two tape recorders, i) a mysteriously covered object which proved to be a cage filled with birds (and we have just listed the most visible items). With such musical material, Mr. Cage played his piece (can we still define it so?) inspired by Venice. It’s a kind of music that must be seen as well as heard: Mr. Cage during the performance lit and smoked a cigarette, a gesture which clearly had its artistic significance within the concert. Regardless of the way we want to judge these performances, it is Cage himself who puts off any debate. While staring at Cage’s angular face, always opened to a smile, Bongiorno asked him:
Why are you always laughing?.
It’s a funny situation Cage candidly replied (or was it pure innocence with a touch of poison?).
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, February 26, 1959:
(Tonight two contestants will fight for the 5 million Lire prize. The operetta expert Vincenzo Maccarrone and mushroom fan, John Cage)
Mr. Cage made his way through the disinterest of the audience for such a non–spectacular subject and the cheerful curiosity for the music he promotes. His ease at answering questions looks promising for the final success.
Corriere della Sera, pag 6, February 27, 1959:
(One of the finalist withdrew, while the other one won 5 million Lire. Mr. Maccarrone (operetta) preferred to leave, while Mr. Cage (mushrooms) brilliantly triumphed)
You kept your head on your shoulders a pleased Bongiorno said to the operetta fanatic, and coherently he said the opposite when, with a impertubable smile, the other finalist, Mr. Cage, declared that he wanted to double the prize amount. Bongiorno’s attempts (half in English, half in Italian) to dissuade him didn’t persuade Cage at all. In the end, however, the one with a head on his shoulders was indeed Mr. Cage. Even though mycology, beyond a certain level, is an impenetrable subject for the neophytes, it’s undeniable that the final performance of the American contestant featured elements of curiosity and thrill. Even those who would not be able to complete the analytic key of the Poliporporacee (first question) or have a vague idea about the dimensions and color of the spores of a mushroom shown on a slide (second question), and even those who ignore what white spored agarici are (third question), could understand that the questions posed to Mr. Cage yesterday were pretty insidious.
And that’s where Mr. Cage was admirable. He never paused or hesistated before giving the exact answers. His face was sweaty, but his answers to Bongiorno’s questions were cold, calm and prompt. When he was asked to list twenty-four genres of white spored agarici, he didn’t bat an eyelash and lowered his voice and impassibly declaredthat he would name them in alphabetical order. If mycology didn’t prove to be a very spectacular subject, Mr. Cage’s performance was certainly so: the audience cheered him as he walked out of the booth. The contestant again showed the smile he had abandoned after entering the glass cage (the only sign of the solemnity of the moment) and he bowed repeatedly. No time to improvise a concert though.
Corriere della Sera, pag 9, February 27, 1959:
Thus the American composer John Cage dominated the scene with a brilliant performance which led him to the final prize. The questions prepared by the experts about mycology, malicious as usual and as insidious as a mine field (the last one comprised twenty-four questions), touched him, but didn’t unsettle him. With a calm voice, shook just a little by tension, John Cage answered all the questions without a qualm.