John Cage

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Cage, John,

1912–92, American composer, b. Los Angeles. A leading figure in the musical avant-garde from the late 1930s, he attended Pomona College and later studied with Arnold SchoenbergSchoenberg, Arnold
, 1874–1951, Austrian composer, b. Vienna. Before he became a U.S. citizen in 1941 he spelled his name Schönberg. He revolutionized modern music by abandoning tonality and developing a twelve-tone, "serial" technique of composition (see serial
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, Adolph Weiss, and Henry CowellCowell, Henry Dixon
, 1897–1965, American composer and pianist, b. Menlo Park, Calif., largely self-educated, studied musicology in Berlin (1931–32). Cowell experimented with new musical resources; in his piano compositions he introduced the tone cluster, played with
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. In 1943 he moved to New York City, where his concerts featuring percussion instruments attracted attention. For these performances he invented the "prepared piano," in which objects made of metal, wood, and rubber were attached to a piano's strings, thus altering pitch and tone and producing sounds resembling those of a minuscule percussion group. Cage's Bacchanale (1938) and Sonatas and Interludes (1946–48) were composed for prepared piano. Cage sought to break down the barrier between "art" and "nonart," maintaining that all sounds are of interest. Many of his works seek to liberate "nonmusical sounds." For example, 4'33" (1952), probably his most famous piece, consists of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence, providing a frame to be filled by random environmental sounds.

Cage also conceived the idea of a "composition indeterminate of its performance," in which the composer gives the performer instructions that do not directly condition the resultant sounds. For example, his famous Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951) is scored for 12 radios tuned at random. He also adopted procedures whereby the composer does not directly condition the sounds of the resultant composition, using such methods as rolling dice or consulting the I Ching (see aleatory musicaleatory music
[Lat. alea=dice game], music in which elements traditionally determined by the composer are determined either by a process of random selection chosen by the composer or by the exercise of choice by the performer(s).
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). Cage, who was first the teacher, then the romantic partner and artistic collaborator of choreographer Merce CunninghamCunningham, Merce
(Mercier Philip Cunningham), 1919–2009, American modern dancer and choreographer, b. Centralia, Wash. Cunningham studied modern dance with Martha Graham and ballet at Balanchine's School of American Ballet.
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, composed music for the dance to be played independently of the choreography.

A kind of musical provocateur, Cage is noted for his inventiveness, his humor, and his strong influence on minimalist composers such as Philip GlassGlass, Philip,
1937–, American composer, b. Baltimore. Considered one of the most innovative of contemporary composers, he was a significant figure in the development of minimalism in music. Glass attended the Univ. of Chicago, Juilliard (M.A.
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 and on the development of performance artperformance art,
multimedia art form originating in the 1970s in which performance is the dominant mode of expression. Perfomance art may incorporate such elements as instrumental or electronic music, song, dance, television, film, sculpture, spoken dialogue, and storytelling.
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. His influence also extended to such media as poetry, video art, painting, and printmaking. He wrote several books, among them Silence: Lectures and Writings (1961) and A Year from Monday (1967).


See D. Charles, For the Birds: John Cage in Conversation (1981); Cage's selected letters (2016) and letters to Merce Cunningham (2019), both ed by L. Kuhn; memoir by C. Brown (2007); biographies by D. Revill (1992), D. Nicholls (2007), and K. Silverman (2010); studies by P. Griffiths (1981), J. Pritchett (1993), W. Fetterman (1996), R. Kostelanetz (1970, 1991, 1993, and 1997), C. Shultis (1998), D. W. Patterson (2001), D. W. Bernstein and C. Hatch (2001), P. Dickinson, ed. (2006), K. Gann (2011), J. Robinson, ed. (2011), and K. Larson (2012); D. Nicholls, ed., Cambridge Companion to John Cage (2002); E. Caplan, Cage/Cunningham (documentary, 1991).

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Cage, John (Milton)

(1912–92) composer; born in Los Angeles. Cage studied with a number of teachers including Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg, who helped provoke his avant-garde proclivities. He began writing all-percussion pieces in the 1930s and proclaimed the use of noise as the next musical horizon; in 1938 he introduced the "prepared piano," an instrument whose sound is radically modified by various objects placed on the strings. While writing much for prepared piano in the 1940s, notably the Sonatas and Interludes, he also produced some pioneering electronic music. Among the most widely influential elements of his thought was the idea of indeterminacy, music that is not strictly controlled, as seen in his 1951 Landscape No. 4 for twelve radios—the sound of which depends on what happens to be on the air. Later works, especially the notorious 4'33" (1954), involve complete silence. He continued to develop such concepts and he also produced several quirky, engaging books beginning with the 1961 Silence. In his later years he was widely acclaimed as one of the more original of American artists.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
Grutman of the New York based office of Davis & Grutman, the latter of whom financially and legally kept watch over what originally was informally called the Cage estate, and which was formalized as the John Cage Trust in 1993.
The cheque he had handed over was not u100,000 as widely reported but a u1,000 donation to the John Cage Trust supporting young artists.
John Cage is almost in a class by himself as the "best man" at this allegorical wedding.
These circumstances were elucidated by Jaroslav Seastny's presentation, not the most conspicuous event within the festival yet one that clearly explained to the American audience why John Cage and his influence is of such major importance for Czech music.
Suzuki, progressing in the second part to the composer John Cage. She chronicles the creation and impact of Cage's major works, his influence as a teacher at Black Mountain College, and his collaborations with and influence on such artists as Merce Cunningham, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Allen Kaprow, and Alison Knowles.
Beral Madra, one of the curators of the show, explains that the exhibition has two important goals: "The first is to commemorate John Cage on his birthday and bring him to the attention of younger generations, since he foresaw the possibilities of technology and the science of the electronic image age at a very early point.
Bangor University's New Music Ensemble joins Head of Performance pianist Xenia Pestova in a John Cage Tribute Concert.
Kass, a painter, writer, emeritus professor of Studio Art at Virginia Tech, and Founder and Director of the Mountain Lake Workshop, an ongoing series of community-based collaborative art projects gathers, in sequence, the full collection of 125 watercolors produced by musician and artist John Cage at the Mountain Lake Workshop.
His rendition incorporated a sensitive and skilled synthesis of music, sounds and silence presented in a fragmented and sparse manner that can be allied in some ways with the aesthetic of American composer John Cage (1912-1992).
The bulk of what is an impressively comprehensive showcase is across the dock at the Tate, however, telling the story of Paik's transformation from musical scholar to media art pioneer via an exploration of his part in the Fluxus movement alongside Stockhausen and John Cage.