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John Cage

September 5, 1912 - August 12, 1992
born in Los Angeles, CA, composed during the Contemporary period
Even after his death, John Cage remains a controversial figure. Famously challenging the very notion of what music is, Cage remained on the leading edge of both playful and profound experimentalism for the greater part of his career, collaborating with and influencing generations of composers, writers, dancers, and visual artists. One of his best-known and most sonically intriguing innovations, the prepared piano, had become an almost commonplace compositional resource by the end of the twentieth century. Years before the invention of the synthesizer, he was in the forefront in the exploration of electric and electronic sound sources, using oscillators, turntables, and amplification to musical ends. He pioneered the use of graphic notation and, in employing chance operations to determine musical parameters, was the leading light for one cadre of the avant-garde that included Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, and Pauline Oliveros. Cage produced works of "performance art" years before the term was coined, and his 4'33'' (1952) -- in which the performers are instructed to remain silent for four minutes and thirty-three seconds -- takes a place among the most notorious touchstones of twentieth century music.

Cage was born on September 5, 1912, in Los Angeles, California. After boyhood piano lessons, he pursued both formal and informal musical studies that ranged from classes at Pomona College to cultural excursions throughout Europe to lessons with American composer Adolph Weiss.

Cage's true mentors were Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg, two very different musical personalities. Cage's music from the 1930s and 1940s demonstrates the direct influence of both Schoenberg and Cowell, and is marked especially by the use of percussion instruments and the prepared piano. While Cage's early music was based, like Schoenberg's, primarily on the organization of pitch, rhythmic structures became increasingly important, no doubt due in part to the composer's associations with the world of dance. He had worked as a dance accompanist at UCLA and then took a similar position at the Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, in 1938. Here he met, and developed a working relationship, with choreographer/dancer Merce Cunningham.

The most important aesthetic development in Cage's career came as a result of his studies of Eastern philosophies, especially Zen Buddhism, in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s. The result was music derived, at least in part, from quasi-random decisions determined by the I Ching (the Chinese Book of Changes). Instead of imposing an inviolable order upon the conventional elements of Western music, Cage endeavored "to make a musical composition[,] the continuity of which is free of individual taste and memory (psychology) and also of the literature and 'traditions' of the art." The embodiment of this philosophy is well illustrated by Cage's Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951). The score calls for the prescribed manipulations of knobs on twelve radios; the aural result is dependent on what happens to be on the airwaves at the instant of performance. In "composing" works in such a fashion, Cage ensured that each realization of the score would provide a unique sonic experience.

Cage's ecumenically experimental spirit continued to thrive into the 1960s and beyond. The "environmental extravaganza" Musicircus (1967) incorporates everything from rock music to pantomime to film; HPSCHD (1967) mixes computer technology with the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin. Child of Tree (1975) calls for the amplification of a potted plant, Inlets (1977) for four conch shells and the sound of fire, and Il Treno (1978) for "prepared trains."

Though his career unfolded largely without the confines of the musical establishment in America, Cage became something of a beloved elder statesman of music in his later years, honored with formal distinctions and concerts marking his major birthdays. He died in New York City on August 12, 1992. ~ Michael Rodman, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Cage: The Perilous Night, Four Walls / Leng Tan, La Barbara

Title: The Perilous Night, For Prepared Piano
Title: Four Walls, For Voice & Piano

7. Four Walls, For Voice & Piano: Scene I

9. Four Walls, For Voice & Piano: Scene III

10. Four Walls, For Voice & Piano: Scene IV

11. Four Walls, For Voice & Piano: Scene V

12. Four Walls, For Voice & Piano: Scene VI

15. Four Walls, For Voice & Piano: Scene IX

16. Four Walls, For Voice & Piano: Scene X

17. Four Walls, For Voice & Piano: Scene XI

18. Four Walls, For Voice & Piano: Scene XII

19. Four Walls, For Voice & Piano: Scene XIII

x

Track List: Cage: Complete Works For Organ

Disc 1
Title: Souvenir, For Organ

1. Souvenir, For Organ: Souvenir

Title: Some Of "The Harmony Of Maine" (Supply Belcher), For Organ & 6 Assistants
Disc 2
Title: Aslsp, For Piano

1. Aslsp, For Piano: ASLSP, For Piano Or Organ

Title: Organ2/aslsp

2. Organ2/aslsp: Organ2/ASLSP

x

Track List: Cage: Early Electronic & Tape Music

1. Fontana Mix, For 4-channel Tape Or Indeterminate Means: Fontana Mix With Aria

2. Imaginary Landscape No. 5, For Any 42 Recordings, To Be Realized On Tape: Imaginary Landscape No. 5

3. Wbai: WBAI

4. Cartridge Music, For Amplified 'Small' Sounds: Cartridge Music

5. 4'33", For Any Ensemble Or Number Of Players: 4'33 No. 2: 0'00''

6. Variations I, For Any Number Of Players & Any Sound Producing Means: Variations I

x

Track List: Cage: Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano

Title: Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano

1. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata I

2. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata II

3. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata III

4. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata IV

5. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: First Interlude

6. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata V

7. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata VI

9. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata VIII

10. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Second Interlude

11. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Third Interlude

12. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata IX

13. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata X

14. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata XI

15. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata XII

16. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Fourth Interlude

17. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata XIII

19. Sonatas And Interludes, For Prepared Piano: Sonata XVI

x

Track List: Cage: Works For Two Keyboards, Vol. 2

x

Track List: John Cage: Music for Prepared Piano, Vol. 2

Title: The Perilous Night, For Prepared Piano
Title: Tossed As It Is Untroubled, For Prepared Piano

7. Tossed As It Is Untroubled, For Prepared Piano: Tossed As It Is Untroubled

Title: Daughters Of The Lonesome Isle, For Prepared Piano Solo

8. Daughters Of The Lonesome Isle, For Prepared Piano Solo: Daughters Of The Lonesome Isle

Title: Root Of An Unfocus, For Prepared Piano

9. Root Of An Unfocus, For Prepared Piano: Root Of An Unfocus

Title: Primitive, For String Piano

10. Primitive, For String Piano: Primitive

Title: Mysterious Adventure, For Prepared Piano

11. Mysterious Adventure, For Prepared Piano: Mysterious Adventure

Title: And The Earth Shall Bear Again, For Prepared Piano

12. And The Earth Shall Bear Again, For Prepared Piano: And The Earth Shall Bear Again

Title: The Unavailable Memory Of, For Prepared Piano

13. The Unavailable Memory Of, For Prepared Piano: The Unavailable Memory Of

Title: Music For Marcel Duchamp, For Prepared Piano

14. Music For Marcel Duchamp, For Prepared Piano: Music For Marcel Duchamp

Title: Totem Ancestor, For Prepared Piano

15. Totem Ancestor, For Prepared Piano: Totem Ancestor

Title: A Room, For Piano Or Prepared Piano

16. A Room, For Piano Or Prepared Piano: A Room

Title: Prelude For Meditation, For Prepared Piano

17. Prelude For Meditation, For Prepared Piano: Prelude For Meditation

x

Track List: John Cage: The Seasons

Title: Seventy-Four, For Orchestra

1. Seventy-Four, For Orchestra: I

Title: The Seasons, Ballet In One Act, For Orchestra

2. The Seasons, Ballet In One Act, For Orchestra: I. Winter

3. The Seasons, Ballet In One Act, For Orchestra: II. Spring

4. The Seasons, Ballet In One Act, For Orchestra: III. Summer

5. The Seasons, Ballet In One Act, For Orchestra: IV. Fall

Title: Concerto, For Prepared Piano & Chamber Orchestra

6. Concerto, For Prepared Piano & Chamber Orchestra: I. Part

7. Concerto, For Prepared Piano & Chamber Orchestra: II. Part

8. Concerto, For Prepared Piano & Chamber Orchestra: III. Part

Title: Seventy-Four, For Orchestra

9. Seventy-Four, For Orchestra: II

Title: Suite For Toy Piano, For Toy Piano Or Piano

10. Suite For Toy Piano, For Toy Piano Or Piano: I

11. Suite For Toy Piano, For Toy Piano Or Piano: II

12. Suite For Toy Piano, For Toy Piano Or Piano: III

13. Suite For Toy Piano, For Toy Piano Or Piano: IV

14. Suite For Toy Piano, For Toy Piano Or Piano: V

Title: Suite For Toy Piano (orch. By Lou Harrison)

15. Suite For Toy Piano (orch. By Lou Harrison): I

16. Suite For Toy Piano (orch. By Lou Harrison): II

17. Suite For Toy Piano (orch. By Lou Harrison): III

18. Suite For Toy Piano (orch. By Lou Harrison): IV

19. Suite For Toy Piano (orch. By Lou Harrison): V

x

Track List: John Cage: The Works For Percussion I

Title: Credo In Us, For 4 Percussionists

1. Credo In Us, For 4 Percussionists: Credo In Us

Title: Imaginary Landscape No. 5, For Any 42 Recordings, To Be Realized On Tape
Title: Imaginary Landscape No. 4, For 12 Radios, 24 Players & Conductor (March No. 2)

3. Imaginary Landscape No. 4, For 12 Radios, 24 Players & Conductor (March No. 2): Imaginary Landscape No. 4, "March No. 2"

Title: Imaginary Landscape No. 1, For 2 Variable Speed Turntables, Frequency Records, Muted Piano & Cymbal

4. Imaginary Landscape No. 1, For 2 Variable Speed Turntables, Frequency Records, Muted Piano & Cymbal: Imaginary Landscape No. 1

Title: Imaginary Landscape No. 2, For 5 Percussionists

5. Imaginary Landscape No. 2, For 5 Percussionists: Imaginary Landscape No. 2, "March No. 1"

Title: Imaginary Landscape No. 3, For 6 Percussionists

6. Imaginary Landscape No. 3, For 6 Percussionists: Imaginary Landscape No. 3

Title: Imaginary Landscape No. 4, For 12 Radios, 24 Players & Conductor (March No. 2)

7. Imaginary Landscape No. 4, For 12 Radios, 24 Players & Conductor (March No. 2): Imaginary Landscape No. 4, "March No. 2" (Second Version)

Title: Imaginary Landscape No. 5, For Any 42 Recordings, To Be Realized On Tape

8. Imaginary Landscape No. 5, For Any 42 Recordings, To Be Realized On Tape: Imaginary Landscape No. 5 (Second Version)

Title: Credo In Us, For 4 Percussionists

9. Credo In Us, For 4 Percussionists: Credo In Us (Second Version)

x

Track List: John Cage: Voice & Piano; Trombone & Piano; Violin & Piano

Disc 1
Title: Four Walls, For Voice & Piano
Title: A Flower, For Voice & Closed Piano
Title: Experiences No. 2, For Voice
Title: She Is Asleep, For Voice, Prepared Piano & 4 Percussion
Title: The Wonderful Widow Of Eighteen Springs, For Voice & Closed Piano
Title: Nowth Upon Nacht, For Voice & Piano
Disc 2
Title: Two5, For Tenor Trombone & Piano
Title: Variations I, For Any Number Of Players & Any Sound Producing Means

2. Variations I, For Any Number Of Players & Any Sound Producing Means: Variations I

Title: Music For Two (1984-87) For Trombone And Piano
Disc 3
Title: Six Melodies, For Violin & Keyboard

1. Six Melodies, For Violin & Keyboard: 1

Title: Two4, For Violin & Piano (Or Sho)
Title: Nocturne, For Violin & Piano
Title: Two6, For Violin & Piano
x

Track List: Works For Percussion 2

Title: Third Construction, For 4 Percussionists

1. Third Construction, For 4 Percussionists: Third Construction

Title: Second Construction, For 4 Percussionists

2. Second Construction, For 4 Percussionists: Second Construction

Title: First Construction (In Metal), For 6 Percussionists

3. First Construction (In Metal), For 6 Percussionists: First Construction (In Metal)

Title: Trio, For 3 Percussionists
Title: Quartet, For 4 Percussionists
Title: Living Room Music, For 4 Percussionists

Comments

Report as inappropriate
Maybe because pandora guys think that 4'33'' work is about silence, and so can not be on pandora.
4'33'' was going to be about silence, but he discovered that this is impossible and you will always have some sound on background, he forgot about the idea and decided to make one song where the background sounds are the song.
So, yes it has sounds (field recordings of the place) and could be on pandora. With the song on pandora, the song problably would have things like unmetered speech.
Report as inappropriate
Cage's written ouvre on music, composition and life itself is just as important and as intellectual l y satisfying.
Report as inappropriate
tonehog45701
Turn off your speakers with a stopwatch for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. There's your very own 4'33". Sheesh.
Report as inappropriate
because it's 4 minutes and 33 seconds haha I don't know?
Report as inappropriate
warthogger9
dude, why doesn't pandora have cage's 4 minutes and 32 seconds?

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