John Cage and the Anechoic Chamber Jay Leeming Arranger of absences, gray-haired composer of blank, Zen-minded man who’d given accident a voice and had followed the hexagrams of the I Ching through to a concerto for chance and twelve spare radios: he’d come from New York to Cambridge on the train for he’d heard they had an insulated room, a honeycombed box of fiberglass and felt where all the clatter of the world was taken away. Maybe there he would hear the raw noise made by nothing at all, an absolute silence like that out of which the universe began. But when he stepped inside he found that there were still noises: one like the muted utterance of a distant ocean, another like the high whistle of wind on wire. The engineer told him this was the rustle of blood in his veins, the whisper of voltages flickering through his own nerves. So there was no absolute quiet, no throne of stillness where you could sit as one removed from earth and drink down the pure void. Instead there was only his dream of silence that he’d followed all the way to this room at Harvard, where his very presence made a sound, and his own listening became the music he had come to hear. Jay Leeming is the author of the poetry books Dynamite on a China Plate (Backwaters Press) and Miracle Atlas (Writers and Books). His poems have appeared in a variety of magazines including the Gettysburg Review, Pleiades, Ploughshares, and Poetry East, and he has been a featured reader at Butler University, the Omega Institute, Robert Bly’s Great Mother Conference, and the Woodstock Poetry Festival. He has taught poetry workshops in Santa Cruz, Minneapolis, England, Colorado, Oregon, Scotland, Rhode Island, and Maine, and is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the founder and editor of the magazine Rowboat: Poetry in Translation and makes his home in Ithaca, New York. “John Cage and the Anechoic Chamber” appears in our Spring 2013 issue.