Friday, August 3, 2007

John Cage (1912-1992)

Sierra Club


It was at Harvard not quite forty years ago that I went into an anechoic [totally silent] chamber not expecting in that silent room to hear two sounds: one high, my nervous system in operation, one low, my blood in circulation. The reason I did not expect to hear those two sounds was that they were set into vibration without any intention on my part. That experience gave my life direction, the exploration of nonintention. No one else was doing that. I would do it for us. I did not know immediately what I was doing, nor, after all these years, have I found out much. I compose music. Yes, but how? I gave up making choices. In their place I put the asking of questions. The answers come from the mechanism, not the wisdom of the I Ching, the most ancient of all books: tossing three coins six times yielding numbers between 1 and 64.


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Modernist composer. Cage studied with Schonberg in Los Angeles (1934). He later worked as a dance accompanist, and founded a percussion orchestra. He began to use electronic devices around 1939.

Cage was interested in Eastern philosophies, especially in Zen.

He directed his attention towards random compositonal techniques (he used coin tosses to determine events) and introduced other indeterminate techniques as in his Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1958).

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