American composer, pianist and docent, born in Los Angeles in 1912. Cage's ideas about music and aesthetics were of enormous influence on western avant-garde and built a bridge between eastern and western philosophy. His experiments with sound and coincidence inspired many modern American and European composers. He received a great amount of cultural prizes and is praised all over the world for his mind-broadening composition style and multidisciplinary interpretation of music art.

Cage studied composition at Henry Cowell's in New York and at Arnold Schonberg's in Los Angeles. He had a strong preference for non-musical sounds, especially percussion. He was also interested in the combination of dance and music. From 1942 onwards he worked intensively together with the choreographer Merce Cunningham. Working as a musical director, Cage wrote a few scores for Cunningham's ensemble: 'Dance Company'.

In the late forties, after he was introduced to the Chinese I Ching, Cage started implementing the factor 'coincidence' in his music. He strived for elimination of human control and also for a bigger role for coincidence in the establishment of musical and non-musical sounds. Under influence of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism he defined music 'an aimless game', a mirror of nature, which he saw as 'indefinite, unstable, without purpose'. The contribution of the composer when classifying sounds had to be based on a maximum of selflessness. His attitude is defined more closely in Cage's lectures and essays (collected in "Silence", 1961).

The compositions "4'33"" and "Imaginary Landscape no. 4" (both from 1952) illustrate his revealing way of composing. "Imaginary Landscape no. 4", for example, is written for 12 radio sets which are set to look up continually changing broadcasting stations, while the volume goes up and down according to a scheme.

Especially famous became Cage's percussive piano, the 'prepared piano', with between the strings pieces of cork, rubber, glass and wood. Late fifties Cage started with the series "Variations", a composition in six parts. The "Variatons" were all very creative compositions: the third variation, for instance, had to be performed by a 'random amount of people, randomly performing actions'.

John Cage died in New York in 1992. The last thing he composed was "Thirteen", a composition for ensemble.


zeta10 says:
Two John Cage items: His estate did recently win a 6-figure settlement over silence, and his "As Slow As Possible" is being perfomed over 639 years.
Current musicians with obvious influence from John Cage include The Melvins, Fantomas, Mr. Bungle and Merzbow.

The biggest influence John Cage had on me was a sign on the wall of the classroom I took a singing class in. It read:
"What's more musical, a truck driving by a music school or a truck driving by a factory?" - John Cage

From the sacred halls of Anecdotia, home of everything apocryphal, comes the following tale - a tale of lust - a tale of betrayal - a tale of raw, uninhibited parsing - a John Cage anecdote.

Ideological Disclaimer: I do not neccesarily adhere to the views in the following. I actually like some of Mr. Cage's compositions, so don't get on my case for disseminating humor. Remember, I know where you node. (/me chuckles ominously)

...Alright then.



I was invited to a musician's house one evening and during the course of dinner I asked to be excused so as to use the restroom. In a stunning display of sagacity and beneficience, my hosts complied.

Upon entering said lavatory I saw a rusted old brass birdcage containing no birds, plants, or seeds, but instead a photocopied picture of an outhouse.

Naturally, I found this sight quite curious. I later asked him about it.

He said nonchalantly,

"Oh, that's my John Cage."

I didn't stop laughing for a very long time.

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