Cover image for John Cage
Title:
John Cage
Publication Information:
London : Reaktion Books, 2012.
ISBN:
9781861899057

9781861899439
Physical Description:
180 p. : ill.
Series:
Critical lives
Language:
English
General Note:
"Select discography"--p. 177-178.
Contents:
Introduction -- Becoming -- Audacity -- Non-attachment -- Eminence -- Doyen -- Parting -- Epilogue.
Abstract:
"American composer, writer, artist and philosopher John Cage (1912-1992) is best known for his experimental composition '4'33"', a musical score in which the performer makes no sound for the duration of the piece. The purpose, Cage said, was for the audience to listen to the sounds of the environment around them while the piece was performed. Groundbreaking pieces such as '4'33"' and 'Sonatas and Interludes' not only established Cage as a leading figure in the postwar avant-garde movement, but also cemented the enduring controversy surrounding his work. This new biography explores Cage's radical approach to art and aesthetics and his belief that everyday life and art are one and the same. Cage emphasized chance over intention, rejecting traditional artistic methods and causing an uproar among his peers. He was also strongly influenced by Eastern cultures, particularly Zen buddhism, and used the Chinese text 'I Ching' as his standard compositional tool in most of his work after 1951. Adding to our understanding of the art, music and ideas of the twentieth century, 'John Cage' provides an engaging look at a man who continues to challenge and inspire artists worldwide"--Publisher's description, back cover.
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Summary

Summary

American writer, composer, artist, and philosopher John Cage (1912-92) is best known for his experimental composition 4'33," a musical score in which the performer does not play an instrument during the duration of the piece. The purpose, Cage said, was for the audience to listen to the sounds of the environment around them while the piece was performed. Groundbreaking pieces such as 4'33" , as well as Sonatas and Interludes not only established Cage as a leading figure in the postwar avant-garde movement, but also cemented the enduring controversy surrounding his work.

In this new biography, Rob Haskins explores Cage's radical approach to art and aesthetics and his belief that everyday life and art are one and the same. Scrutinizing Cage's emphasis on chance over intention, which rejected traditional artistic methods and caused an uproar among his peers, Haskins elucidates the ideas that lay behind these pillars of Cage's work. Haskins also demystifies the influence of Eastern cultures, particularly Zen Buddhism, on Cage, including his use of the Chinese text I Ching as his standard composition tool in all his work after 1951. Adding to our understanding of the art, music, and ideas of the twentieth century, this book provides an engaging look at a man who continues to challenge and inspire artists worldwide.


Reviews 1

Choice Review

Acknowledging that he does not treat "every event" and "many compositions" in this addition to the "Critical Lives" series, Haskins (Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham) does a masterful job of introducing the reader to the "sound of Cage's music" and, to some extent, his visual art and writings. (Among the minor oversights: Schoenberg taught briefly in Boston prior to his move to California, where Stravinsky did not reside until the 1940s. And a quibble: in Vexations, does Satie's " immobilites serieuses" equate to "inward mobility"?) Particularly recommended is the epilogue, a refreshing assessment of what might be termed the attitude performers and listeners should bring to Cage's music: "Cage's openness to experimentation gives the best of these artists the license to think in unusual new ways." What Haskins describes as "the logic of recurrence" in his succinct description of Number Piece Two2 (which Cage referred to, in a discussion with this reviewer, as "Two, for the Second Time") was affirmed when Cage confirmed five errors in the published score; Cage also confided that because chance procedures had led to an imbalance of materials between the performers he had made adjustments. This invaluable book is enhanced by numerous photographs---some not frequently encountered. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readers. J. Behrens Wolf Museum of Music and Art


Table of Contents

Introduction
1 Becoming
2 Audacity
3 Non-attachment
4 Eminence
5 Doyen
6 Parting
Epilogue
References
Bibliography
Select Discography
Acknowledgements
Photo Acknowledgements