d. August 12, 1992
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”
A fascination with Taoism I’m frightened of the old ones.” and Zen Buddhism led John Cage to chance music. Based on the “I Ching”— the Zen book of changes— and the flip of a coin, he created compositions solely by chance
Twentieth century composer John Cage pushed the boundaries of traditional music, experimenting with sound, environment and audience perception. His avant-garde work influenced music, painting, dance, performance art and poetry.
Cage was born in Los Angeles. He was playing piano on the radio regularly by the time he was 12. The son of an inventor, Cage developed a reputation for innovation and originality—qualities that became the hallmarks of his career.
In 1930, after two years at Pomona College, Cage left for a less traditional education in Europe. Settling in Paris, he spent 18 months painting, writing poetry and composing music, before returning to California to focus on music.
From 1931 to 1936, Cage’s composition teachers included Adolph Weiss, Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg. Schoenberg declared the young man “not a composer, but an inventor of genius.”
In 1937, Cage worked as a dance accompanist in Seattle, where he met dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham. The two became professional and life partners for the next 50 years.
In 1938, Cage began to experiment. He composed pieces for the prepared piano—a piano he created with objects placed on and between the strings to alter sound. He also used record players and phonographs as instruments.
In the 1940’s, Cage continued to pursue unorthodox techniques. His fascination with Taoism and Zen Buddhism led him to chance music. Based on the “I Ching”—the Zen book of changes—and the flip of a coin, Cage created compositions solely by chance.
In 1948, Cage joined the Black Mountain College faculty and began collaborating with David Tudor and Robert Rauschenberg, among others. He composed his most controversial piece “4’33’,” three scores of silence over 4 minutes and 33 seconds. The intended “music” of the piece is the unintentional sound created by the audience and the environment.
Cage continued to compose and collaborate with other artists. In his later years, he focused on electronic music, often using radios and “Happenings,” as he called them—pieces that are mostly unwritten, except for timed intervals in which a note, a sound or silence is scheduled.
John Cage was also a writer, philosopher, visual and performance artist, and cofounder of the New York Mycological Society for the study, collection and appreciation o www.glbtHistoryMonth.com f mushrooms and fungi.Bibliography
- Biography Base: John Cage. 3 May, 2009
- Compositions by John Cage. 5 May, 2009
- "John Cage" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 3 May, 2009
- PBS American Masters: John Cage. 5 May, 2009
- "Who2 Biography: John Cage" Answers.com. 5 May, 2009
- IndeterminacyJohn Cage: Early Piano Music with Herbert Henck
- John Cage: In a Landscape
- John Cage: Music for Prepared Piano, Vol. 2 with Boris Berman
- John Cage: One11 with 103
- John Cage - The Seasons / Leng Tan, Russell Davies, et al with American Composers Orch, Davies, and Margaret Leng Tan
- Variations VII by John Cage: E.A.T. - 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering
Books About John Cage
- The Roaring Silence: John Cage: A Life by David Revill (1993)
- The Music of John Cage (Music in the Twentieth Century) by James Pritchett (1993)
- John Cage: Composed in America by Marjorie Perloff and Charles Junkermanm (1994)
- John Cage Visual Art: To Sober and Quiet the Mind by Kathan Brown (2001)
- Conversing with John Cage by Richard Kostelanetz (2003)
- John Cage by David Nicholls (2007)
Books By John Cage
- Silence: Lectures and Writings (1961)
- A Year from Monday: New Lectures and Writings (1968)
- M: Writings, 1967-72 (1973)
- Empty Words: Writings, 1973-78 (1979)
- X: Writings, 1979-82 (1983)
- Anarchy (1988)
- Composition In Retrospect (1993)
Music & Performances by John Cage
- 4'33" with John Harrison, Lou Cage, Carlos Chavez, and Edgard Varese
- Cage: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano with Boris Berman
- John Cage’s “4’33”” performed by David Tudor
- John Cage discusses his inspirations
- John Cage on silence
- One of John Cage’s earliest appearances