John Cage

Topics: John Cage, Piano, Music Pages: 15 (5423 words) Published: December 4, 2008
John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer. A pioneer of chance music, electronic music and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde and, in the opinion of many, the most influential American composer of the 20th century.[1][2] He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage's romantic partner for the most part of the latter's life.[3][4]

Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played. A performance of 4′33″ can be perceived as including the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed,[5]rather than merely as four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence[6] and has become one of the most controversial compositions of the century. Another famous creation of Cage's is the prepared piano (a piano with its sound altered by placing various objects in the strings), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces, the most well-known of which is Sonatas and Interludes (1946–48).[7]

His teachers included Henry Cowell (1933) and Arnold Schoenberg (1933–35), both known for their radical innovations in music, but Cage's major influences lay in various Eastern cultures. Through his studies of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism in the late 1940s, Cage came to the idea of chance-controlled music, which he started composing in 1951. The I Ching, an ancient Chinese classic text on changing events, became Cage's standard composition tool for the rest of his life. In a 1957 lecture, Experimental Music, he described music as "a purposeless play" which is "an affirmation of life – not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we're living".[8]

In addition to his composing, Cage was also a philosopher, writer, artist, printmaker[9] and an avid amateur mycologist and mushroom collector.

Contents [hide]
1 Life
1.1 1912–1931: Early years
1.2 1931–1936: Apprenticeship
1.3 The Cornish School years
1.4 Chance
1.5 Black Mountain, 4′33″
1.6 Happenings & Fluxus
1.7 Subsequent works
1.8 Death
2 Writings, visual art, and other activities
2.1 World's slowest, longest concert
3 Archives
4 Cultural references
5 See also
6 References and further reading
6.1 Books
6.2 Encyclopedias
6.3 Dissertations and articles
7 Notes
8 External links
8.1 General information and catalogues
8.2 Link collections
8.3 Specific topics
8.4 Listening
8.5 Media

[edit] Life

[edit] 1912–1931: Early years
Cage was born in Los Angeles, California. His father John Milton Cage Sr. (1886–1964) was an inventor, and his mother Lucretia ("Crete") Harvey (1885–1969) worked intermittently as journalist for the Los Angeles Times.[10] The family's roots were completely American: in a 1976 interview Cage mentioned "a John Cage who helped [George] Washington in the surveying of Virginia".[11] Cage described his mother as a woman with "a sense of society" who was "never happy",[12] while his father is perhaps best characterized by his inventions: sometimes idealistic, such as a submarine that gave off bubbles,[13] others revolutionary and against the scientific norms, such as the "electrostatic field theory" of the universe.[14] John Milton Sr. taught his son that "if someone says 'can't' that shows you what to do." In 1944–45 Cage wrote two small character pieces dedicated to his parents: Crete and Dad. The latter is a short lively piece that ends abruptly, while "Crete" is slightly longer, mostly melodic contrapuntal work.[15]

Cage's first experiences with music were from private piano teachers in the Greater Los Angeles area and several relatives, particularly his aunt Phoebe Harvey who...
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