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John Cage Biography

(1912–92), Silence: Lectures and Writing, A Year From Monday: New Lectures and Writings

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American composer, author, and printmaker, born in Los Angeles; he studied music and composition under Arnold Schoenberg, and at the New School for Social Research, with Adolph Weiss. Cage also travelled and studied a variety of disciplines, including architecture, Dadaism, oriental philosophy, and noise music with Edgard Varèse. In 19446, he was the musical director for the Merce Cunningham Dance School in New York. He later collaborated with Merce Cunningham and the painter Robert Rauschenberg on the first famous ‘happening’ entitled ‘Theater Piece’, organized at the Black Mountain College in 1952. Cage has always been a controversial avant-garde composer and a major figure in American music. Central to his musical aesthetics is the exploration of the relations between chance operations and abstract structural principles, but perhaps his most significant impact on writing experiments was his sense that language is, in itself, sound. His first significant book was Silence: Lectures and Writing (1961), which demonstrated a variety of experimental ideas and lectures on writing, music, ballet, Varèse, Satie, and Rauschenberg. After A Year From Monday: New Lectures and Writings (1967), he published M: Writings '67–'72 (1973), which embraced essays and verbal games organized by a variety of abstract principles on such subjects as Dadaism and fungi. There followed Empty Words (1973), described as ‘text-sound poetry’, which worked in four movements of the gradual decomposition of words and sounds, slowly inviting the audience to recompose their own sounds. Sound for Cage always remained primarily social, and his experiments with language and sound have been hugely influential on writers of the Black Mountain School and ‘Language Poets’. Other books and collected essays include X: Writings '79–'82 (1983), I–IV (1990), First: Sixth (1990), and Aerial Six-Seven: Art Is Either a Complaint or Do Something Else (1991). He also published several collaborative works which include the Poet's Encyclopaedia (1980) with Charles Bukowski, John Ashbery, and Robert Creeley, The Guests Go in to Supper (1986) with Robert Ashley and Yoko Ono, and Mud Book: How To Make Pies and Cakes (1986) with Lois Long.

Abraham Cahan Biography - (1860–1951), Neie Zeit, Arbiter Zeitung, Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto [next]

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