Who is John Cage?

I’m amazed at all the stuff I don’t know.  And it just keeps piling up.  Just recently, I read a magazine article about Brian Eno in which Eno mentioned that John Cage was an important influence on his work.  Now, I think I’d heard the name “John Cage”  before, but honestly, I don’t know in what context.  I knew virtually nothing about him; if you had told me he was a minor league shortstop in the Yankees organization being groomed to replace Derek Jeter, I probably would have believed you.

Bats Left, Throws Right

Bats Left, Throws Right

But since you weren’t around, I asked my third best friend–Wikipedia.  And what I learned certainly dampens any possibility that he’ll show up at Yankee Stadium–ever.  For one thing, there are no references to any sporting prowess, baseball or otherwise.  But far more relevant is the fact that he’s been dead for more than 20 years.  Here is an edited version of the Wikipedia entry for Mr. Cage:

John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer, music theorist, writer, and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century. Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, which is performed in the absence of deliberate sound; musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title. “

I probably should be embarrassed by my ignorance of Cage’s contributions to American music but for now, I’m not.  What I am really ashamed of is my not knowing whether “4’33” stood for 4 hours and 33 minutes, or 4 minutes and 33 seconds. A big difference.  Huge, in fact. Because, if his composition was 4 hours plus, that would be awfully impressive.  I think 4 minutes and some seconds is nice but not nearly the monumental achievement that 4 hours and 33 minutes of nothingness would be.

Well, as you probably know, and what I ultimately learned is that,  ‘  is the symbol for minute and Cage’s crowning composition only went on for something less than five minutes.  A bit disappointing but still an effort unique enough to make him (more) famous. Kudos!  (By the way, if you want to “listen” to his masterpiece, you won’t find it on Pandora; you’ll have to buy the CD  . . . or just insert a blank one into your CD player.)

Reading the Wiki entry about Mr. Cage really got my creative juices going.  I fiddled around with some ideas and ultimately settled on trying my hand at a non-concerto that I entitled, “5’22”.  But after fooling around with it for a while, I concluded that I really have no musical talent whatsoever and was wasting my time.

But then I thought, “What the f!!”,  I  have some talent for writing so why not try something Cagian.  So what follows is my blog post that I call: “Three and One Half Pages”.  I hope you like it as much as I’ve enjoyed not writing it.






2 Responses to “Who is John Cage?”

  1. Rich Says:

    Mesmorizing! “Three and One Half Pages” was your best blog yet. I couldn’t tear myself away from the screen. You’ve got a big hill to climb. I don’t know if you can top this piece.

  2. iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

    Well, we’ll see. I already have another one in the works–six and one third pages. Just have to work out some kinks and do some serious non-editing.

    I’ll tell you—it’s really so much easier and more fun than writing the conventional way. You know. . . with words and things like that.

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