Happy Birthday John Cage!
Monday, September 5th, would have been John Cage's 99th Birthday. Cage was truly one of the 20th century's greatest composers. As much as so many people despise or misunderstand him, his contributions to music, and more importantly, how we listen to and relate to music, are immeasurable. As a percussionist, I can attest to Cage's contributions to the percussion repertoire, and his immense sense of vision in bringing percussion to the fore. His ground breaking compositions, like Credo In Us, First Construction (in Metal), and the Imaginary Landscapes series, are still fresh today after 70 years.
Perhaps Cage's most misunderstood piece, and the ultimate musical deconstruction, is 4'33" (1952). In the performance of this composition, the player does not perform a note for the duration of the 3 movements. The piece has been a challenge to many who see it not as a "piece of music." But Cage's interest in Zen Buddhism is apparent here, and he was for all intents and purposes, teaching us a lesson about music: it's all around us. So the idea of 4'33" is that as a listener, while we do not hear any notes being played, we do hear the background sounds, such as people coughing, the air conditioning, papers/programs rustling, or even our own breath & heartbeat. To Cage, everything was music.
So here's to John Milton Cage, Jr. You are a big influence on me and my music, and I wish I could've met you at least once in our lifetimes. May your music live on forever!
"Percussion is completely open. It is not even open-ended. The strings, the winds, the brass know more about music than they do about sound. To study noise they must go to the school of percussion. The spirit of percussion opens everything, even what was so to speak, completely closed."
~ John Cage