Sunday, May 1, 2011

Music History: Who is John Cage?

John Cage, The Avant-garde Composer (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992)

He was born as John Milton Cage, Jr. at Los Angeles, California.  He was considered as one of the most influential American composer and was widely known for his avant-garde music.  Avant-garde word origin means "advance guard" or "vanguard" from the army advancing in the battle. An avant-garde refers to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics.

His early years as the son of an inventor, John Milton Sr. and a Los Angeles Times journalist influenced him to be intuitive and experimental. He  started  piano lessons at the age four and later mentors are Richard Buhlig, Henry Cowell, Adolph Weiss, and Arnold Schoenberg.  Cowell and  Schoenberg were also  both known for their radical innovations in music.

His art and music draws from ordinary things in life and make the best out of it like a clay rose a beautiful vase. Cage is always happy, fascinated with world, and experimented with it. He altered standard instruments, such as putting plates and screws between a piano’s strings, experimented with tape recorders, record players, and radios to go beyond the conventional western music.

He was considered as an avant-garde composer with unorthodox, radical, experimental compositions and performance which includes the 4′33" piece.

Some of his musical works includes :
Sonatas and Interludes (1946) for prepared piano where nuts and bolts,pieces of felt, rubber, and plastic were inserted into the strings to give the piano a percussive sound.

Imaginary Landscape No. 4(1951), Fontana Mix (1958)
Cheap Imitation an “impression” of the music of Erik Satie (1969) , this is the last  work Cage was able to perform in public because he suffered from  athritis .

Roaratorio (1979), an electronic composition utilizing thousands of words found in James Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake.

John Cage is  a composer, philosopher, poet, music theorist, artist, writer, printmaker,amateur mycologist and mushroom collector. A revolutionary of chance music, electronic music and non-standard use of musical instruments.  His legacy is nfluenced by the modern generation of composers who wanted to follow his musical style.