Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rule 7 and other rules

I have long been a fan of what is called, simply, Rule 7:

The only rule is work. If you work, it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.

As I wrote in a still mildly popular 2005 post, I found this rule in Learning by Heart, a book by the artist Corita Kent, where it appears in a list of rules for students and teachers in a college art department. Here’s the full list.

This morning Elaine showed me the same list, attributed to John Cage. Wha?

This 2010 post by Keri Smith and the comments that follow explore the question of attribution. I find Smith’s hypothesis plausible: that the quotation from Cage that forms Rule 10 led somehow to all the rules being identified as his work. If the list of rules is by Cage, I’d say it’s the best thing he ever wrote. But a comment on Smith’s post from the artist Jill Bell quotes correspondence from Richard Crawford that would seem to confirm a collaborative effort by Kent and her students. Crawford was one of Kent’s students.

[Thanks to Daughter Number Three for letting me know who Jill Bell is.]

comments: 5

Sean said...

I've only known of this list as being a work of Cage's, so this is very interesting. It's funny, because there's a particular sense of soberness to it that I always thought was a bit outside of Cage's aesthetic, but I nonetheless accepted that he was the author. I had no reason to believe otherwise—except for that odd feeling—but it wasn't enough for me to doubt.

I don't remember my original source for them, though it may actually be one of my own professors.

Next you're going to tell me that Apollinaire didn't write "Come to the Edge". ;)

Sean said...

Since I attributed this to Cage, it looks like some of my students will be entitled to another "$5 Off" coupon for their tuition the following semester...

Michael Leddy said...

I once read the famous “To laugh often and much” passage in a class and attributed it to Emerson. I too had no reason to doubt. As they say, mistakes were made.

Speaking of which, I thought U2 wrote “Come to The Edge.” :)

The statement that Keri Smith quotes and links to from Laura Kuhn, the director of the John Cage Trust — “The ‘10 Rules for Students and Teachers’ that is often ascribed to Sister Corita Kent was actually authored by the composer John Cage” — seems to no longer be online. I’m not sure what its disappearance means.

Frex said...

Thanks for the background on this.
At least it's plausible John Cage might compose such a list?

Not like the "quote" I saw attributed to Charles Dickens on FB the other day:
"The only thing better than a friend is a friend with chocolate."

This seemed anachronistic (etc.)--I looked it up and found it came from some plaque made by a marketer of Cute Things. But my policy is never to edit on FB, so I bit the bullet and have been waiting for THIS opportunity to express my pain:

I might add to any list of rules, "Check your references."

Frex = Fresca @

Michael Leddy said...

I know that if I were on Facebook, I’d be tracking down and writing about ersatz quotations every dang day. They drive me crazy. Along with the announcements of the deaths of famous people who turn out to have died several years ago.