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John Cage (9/05/1912 - 8/12/1992)

A leading American avant-garde musician, John Cage won notoriety for his famous silent work, 4′33″, for any instrument or instruments. Equally controversial was 0′0″, ten years later, performed by the composer and consisting of the slicing of vegetables, which are then juiced in a blender and consumed by the performer. Cage has had a considerable influence on younger composers, with his use of chance and indeterminacy, electronic techniques and every possible experimental device, whether musical or dramatic. He combined his interest in music with considerable knowledge of mushrooms and a fondness for bridge and other card and board games.


Cage’s compositions are not easily classified. His early use of percussion was a natural corollary of his work with dance groups. Devices used included the prepared piano, pioneered in his 1938 Bacchanale, and followed by a number of other compositions in which various objects are inserted into the piano to create different effects, largely percussive in quality. An interest in Zen and the I Ching resulted in Music of Changes, where chance dictated the choice of notes. Dramatic actions dominate Water Music, for a pianist, who must empty pots of water and perform other feats, while later music makes considerable use of tapes or calls for undetermined forces.



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