John Cage

John Cage John Milton Cage Jr. John Cage became famous for his unorthodox theories and very experimental compositions. He was an American composer born in Los Angeles on September 5, 1912. Neither of his parents went to college, and John himself dropped out after a mere two years in college. His father earned a living being an inventor.

Cage credits his father, being an inventor, as very influential to the way in which he wrote music.John also considered himself as an innovator and discoverer in the field of music. John Cage took traditional classical music and turned it into a futuristic collection of sounds totally different from what everyone was used to. He has expanded the idea of what sounds constituted music, and was the influential impetus behind indeterminacy in music. He is credited with enhancing the thinking of many other modern composers, Philip Glass being one of them. By as early as 1937 Cage was introducing the use of intentional and unintentional noise and electrically produced sounds in music. He did this by using your everyday household items such as pots and pans even brake drums to produce sounds and turn them into music.

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He was the first composer to give noise equal status to musical tone.He is said to have created an early piece “Imaginary Landscapes No. 1” by using muted piano, cymbal, and frequency test recordings. As if this doesn’t sound weird enough the frequency test recordings were played on variable speed turntables. This was John Cage’s style. He later went on to use the sounds of percussion on household furniture, he used various items such as the human body, conch shells, and kitchen sounds like chopping vegetables.He was also known for using amplified sounds like a crumpling paper, even a chess game being played.

He incorporated the sounds of toys and toy pianos into his works also. Cage, in 1938, once conquered the challenge of creating percussion instruments for a dance in a theatre that had no wings or orchestra pit, there was just barely enough room for a small grand piano built into the front left of the audience. Being so limited on space and not being able to neither find, nor fit an African twelve tone row, he invented the prepared piano.

The prepared piano he created by adding screws, bolts, rubber, wood and weather striping between the strings of the grand piano.The piano was transformed into a percussion orchestra, with the loudness of that of a harpsichord. Cage later went on to earn awards for “Sonatas and Interludes” which was one of his most important works for the prepared piano in 1946 to 1948. Cage later went on to say “My favorite music is the music that I haven’t yet heard. I don’t here the music I write: I write in order to hear the music I have [not] yet heard.” This quote summarizes his philosophy on indeterminacy. This belief led to the creation of 4’33”, his recording of the sounds around you.

The only thing specified is the length of the piece.It is said that he used 4.33 minutes which equals 273 seconds. And – 273 centigrade = zero degrees where everything would be completely silent and atoms quite moving. What do you think about this theory? Later John went on studying Zen Buddhism and the “I Ching” which is what steered him more so in the direction of indeterminacy.

With this style he would orchestrate what was going on, but leave the conditions open to the performer. A good example is the piece he created by using 12 radios each and having 24 different people, two at each radio, one controlled the volume and the other the tuning. He would then randomly select which radios were playing when he told them.The undetermined condition here would be that he never knew what was playing on each station as he selected them to play, or the volume.

And pieces were always overlapping each other with a variety of unknown music at different times. This piece was titled “Imaginary Lanscapes No. 4”. Cage went all through life pushing the boundaries of traditional music.Opening people and other composers minds to all avenues of new music through sounds and indeterminacy. He had influenced everything from the use of silence as music, to how people view and think about music and sound itself.

Some refer to John Cage as the father of indeterminate music. He died in 1992, where his obituary actually made the front page of the New York Times. Not only during his life, but even after life, Cage was one of the most influential and innovative composers of the 20th century.In 1993, “A Chance Operation – The John Cage Tribute” was released. It included a large variety of artists performing a tribute to John Cage. Not only classical artists either. Frank Zappa actually does 4’33” on the tribute. If you get a chance, I encourage listening to it.

Few Trivia bits 1. Extremely knowledgeable of Mushrooms 2. Liked playing bridge as well as other card games and board games. 3. He recorded vegetables being sliced, put into blender, then he drank the juice.

4. Spent some time in Europe learning to become a writer before becoming musician 5. The possible meaning of 4’33” as talked about in this paper. References http://darkwing.uoregon.

edu/~splat/Cage Tribute.html http://www.encyclopedia.com/articles/02127.html http://www.xs4all.

nl/~gaud/biobak/c/cagej.htm http://wings.buffalo.

edu/epc/authors/perloff/cage. html http://www.edition-peters.de/cage/cage engl.html http://encarta.msn.com/find/Consise.asp?ti=0106500 0 http://newalbion.com/artists/cagej/autobiog.html http://www.hnh.com/composer/cage.htm John Cage List of Works http://metalab.unc.edu/mal/MO/cage/cageworks.html Music Essays.