New York Times
On Feb. 7, 1943, John Cage made his first New York public appearance at the Museum of Modern Art with a performance of percussion works that featured his wife, Xenia (whom he would divorce three years later), and Merce Cunningham (who would replace her as his life partner).
“I’d come from Chicago and was staying in the apartment of Peggy Guggenheim and Max Ernst,” Cage recounted later. “Peggy had agreed to pay for the transport of my percussion instruments from Chicago to New York, and I was to give a concert to open her gallery, The Art of This Century. Meanwhile, being young and ambitious, I had also arranged to give a concert at the Museum of Modern Art. When Peggy discovered that, she canceled not only the concert but also her willingness to pay for the transport of the instruments. When she gave me this information, I burst into tears. In the room next to mine at the back of the house, Marcel Duchamp was sitting in a rocking chair, smoking a cigar. He asked why I was crying, and I told him. He said virtually nothing, but his presence was such that I felt calmer.”
“There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33” ” runs through June 22 at the Museum of Modern Art; 212-708-9400, moma.org.