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John Cage
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John Cage

John Cage (1912 – 1992, USA) was an American avant-garde composer, music theorist, writer and artist, whose inventive compositions and unorthodox ideas profoundly influenced 20th century music. After spending some time in Europe during his early years, Cage went back to live first in Chicago and then in New York, where he continued to experiment and push the boundaries of music, and embarked on a career of what he called “an exploration of non-intention”. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, John Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance.

John Cage is the “composer” of the famous piano piece titled 4′ 33″ (1952), which consists of the pianist(s) sitting at a piano and not playing for exactly four minutes and 33 seconds. This radical gesture upended the conventional structure of music, shifting attention from the performer to the audience, and allowing for endless possibilities of ambient sounds to fill the space. Today, 4’33” is recognized as a groundbreaking work that synthesizes Cage’s interests in chance operations, experimental music, and visual arts. When discussing the work over his lifetime, Cage emphasized that, rather than intending to simply shock his audience, he hoped to attune listeners to silence as a structure within musical notation.