I was talking on the 100th anniversary of Cage's birth, reflecting on his work and on the concept of improvisation as it happens in the expressive arts. I started out my giving some biographical information about Cage and the development of his music, pointing out that he actually hated improvisation for most of his life. He felt that it was too much tied to the performer's tastes and memories, and instead preferred chance procedures in the composition and performance of his work.
Then I talked about the idea of improvisation in expressive arts and related it to similar concepts from other frameworks, like the Taoist wu-wei (non-doing) and Heidegger's Gelassenheit (letting-be).
At that point I discussed Cage's change of mind - in his late seventies, he developed a new appreciation for improvisation, and did an improvised lecture called How To Get Started (go to www.howtogetstarted.com). I gave a similar lecture - the method is to take ten topics of interest and talk (in a random order) for three minutes in an improvised way on each one, recording the first one and playing it back during the second, then playing back both the first and second during the third, etc. In the end there are ten takes of thirty-three minutes in total all playing at the same time.
Now here's where it gets interesting: Because we only had two speakers (Cage had ten channels to broadcast on), we decided it would be good to put away all the chairs and have the audience (students and faculty) walk around to hear the sounds from the different speakers. What we didn't realize was that by having them move around, they actually became part of the performance (something that Cage believed would happen in any case). It was like a dance - and a beautiful one at that. Since EGS students are such creative types, many of their movements were like dancing, and the audience as a whole became a dance ensemble in a multi-media presentation.