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date: 21 September 2019

Cage, Johnlocked

(b Los Angeles, Sept 5, 1912; d New York, Aug 12, 1992).
  • Hugh Davies

Extract

(b Los Angeles, Sept 5, 1912; d New York, Aug 12, 1992).

American composer, philosopher, writer and printmaker. He was educated in California and then made a study tour of Europe (1930–31), concentrating on art, architecture and music. On his return to the USA he studied music with Richard Buhlig, Adolph Weiss, Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg; in 1934 he abandoned abstract painting for music. An interest in extending the existing range of percussion instruments led him, in 1940, to devise the ‘prepared piano’ (in which the sound is transformed by the insertion of various objects between the strings) and to pioneer electronic sound sources.

Cage’s studies of Zen Buddhism and Indian philosophy during the 1940s resulted in a decision to remove intention, memory and personal taste from music, based on the Oriental concern with process rather than result. According equal status to both structured sound and noise, he treated silence (the absence of intentional sounds) as an element in its own right. In the early 1950s he began his close collaboration with the pianist ...

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S. Sadie and H. W. Hitchcock, eds: The New Grove Dictionary of American Music, 4 vols (London, 1986)
S. Sadie, ed.: The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 3 vols (London, 1984)