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John Cage Photo

John Cage

American Composer, Theoretician, and Writer

Movements and Styles: Neo-Dada, Fluxus, Conceptual Art

Born: Septemer 5, 1912 - Los Angeles, California

Died: August 12, 1992 - Stony Point, New York

John Cage Timeline

Quotes

"If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all."
John Cage
"As far as consistency of thought goes, I prefer inconsistency."
John Cage
"Which is more musical: a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school?"
John Cage
"The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason."
John Cage

"The function of art is not to communicate one's personal ideas or feelings, but rather to imitate nature in her manner of operations."

John Cage Signature

Synopsis

Working during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, John Cage honed his skills in the midst of the growing American avant garde. Neither a painter or a sculptor, Cage is best known for revolutionizing modern music through his incorporation of unconventional instrumentation and the idea of environmental music dictated by chance. His approach to composition was deeply influenced by Asian philosophies, focusing on the harmony that exists in nature, as well as elements of chance. Cage is famous not only for his radical works, like 4'33" (1952), in which the ambient noise of the recital hall created the music, but also for his innovative collaborations with artists like Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg. These partnerships helped break down the divisions between the various realms of art production, such as music, performance, painting, and dance, allowing for new interdisciplinary work to be produced. Cage's influence ushered in groundbreaking stylistic developments key to contemporary art and paved the way for the postmodern artistic inquiries, which began in the late 1960s and further challenged the established definition of fine art.

Key Ideas

Cage discovered that chance was as important of a force governing a musical composition as the artist's will, and allowed it to play a central role in all of his compositions. Although each piece has a basic, composed structure, the overall effect varied with each performance as different variables like the location and audience directly affected the sounds that were produced.
By breaking with the historically determined preconception that music was made by musicians using traditional instruments to perform structured and prearranged compositions, Cage opened up a new wealth of possibilities within modern art. His revolutionary performances ushered in an era of experimentation in all media and shifted the focus away from the artist's inner psyche to the artist's contemporary environment.
Cage focused his compositional career on the incorporation of unconventional elements such as kitchen gadgets, metal sheets, various common objects, and even silence into his works to change the way modern audiences listened to music and appreciated their surroundings.

Biography

John Cage Photo

Childhood

John Cage was born in Los Angeles to John Milton Cage, Sr., an inventor, and Lucretia ('Crete') Harvey, an amateur artist and occasional journalist for The Los Angeles Times. The range of his father's inventions (including a diesel-fueled submarine and electrostatic field theory), could be characterized as both revolutionary and eccentric, and certainly left an impression on the young Cage.

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John Cage Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
John Cage
Interactive chart with John Cage's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Johann Sebastian BachJohann Sebastian Bach
Arnold SchoenbergArnold Schoenberg

Personal Contacts

Merce CunninghamMerce Cunningham

Movements

Neo-DadaNeo-Dada
Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism

Influences on Artist
John Cage
John Cage
Years Worked: 1933 - 1992
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Allan KaprowAllan Kaprow
Al HansenAl Hansen
George BrechtGeorge Brecht
Jackson Mac LowJackson Mac Low

Personal Contacts

Robert RauschenbergRobert Rauschenberg
Jasper JohnsJasper Johns
Merce CunninghamMerce Cunningham

Movements

HappeningsHappenings
FluxusFluxus
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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