John Cage’s Sonata 12 is what I imagine a child’s larks and a parent’s lullaby would sound like within George Orwell’s 1984.
What would it be like for a parent to sing his or her child to sleep, knowing that that same child will report him or her to the Thought Police at the slightest sign of dissension? What would it be like knowing that your own progeny would more likely than not send you to a swift and horrible death? It is incredible to imagine the mixture of parental love and crippling fear that must be felt for the tiny creature in such circumstances.
When I listen to Cage’s piece, I imagine the beginning and ending to present the parent who is watching his or her child play nearby. The music is playful and lilting as the child frolics around, but at the same time definitely unhinged because that innocence is a façade for something much darker. In the middle, the parent sings the child to sleep with a lullaby and gazes on his or her face that is made to appear so innocuous by sleep.
Can you hear it?