John Cage was an American composer (September 5, 1912- August 12, 1992) who played a great part in experimental music. He was one of the leading figures of post-war avant-garde, because of his innovative approach of music.
In 1943, he gave a crucial concert with his percussion ensemble at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which marked the first step in his emergence as a leader of the American musical avant-garde. From this moment onwards, he has been considered by many as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century, being the father of a whole generation of experimental musicians, not only in the USA but also all over the world. Under his influence, young composers felt free to dispense with presuppositions about what music is and must be. John Cage has also spread the belief that music must be seen as part of a single natural process (the so-called “aleatoric music”), an idea that his studies of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism brought him.
A well-known example of his broadened conception of music is the “prepared-piano”: a piano with its sounds altered by household objects placed between or on its strings and hammers. With the help of this piano technique, he wrote several dance-related works (the most famous being Sonatas and Interludes) and was in this sense involved in the development of modern dance as well.
Tim Oven plays John Cage - Sonata IV for prepared piano
A further innovation is his silent composition 4’33’’ (1952) which has been afterwards regarded as his most famous work. John Cage regarded all kinds of sounds as potentially musical, and he encouraged audiences to take note of all sonic phenomena, rather than only those elements selected by a composer. In 4’33’’, there are no other sounds than those produced by the audience, the musicians only have a figurative function; they do not play at all. This composition inspired him his influential book about music theory “Silence”.
Indeterminism was the main principle that he cultivated in his music. He used a number of devices to ensure randomness and thus eliminate any element of personal taste on the part of the performer: unspecified instruments and numbers of performers, freedom of duration of sounds and entire pieces, inexact notation...
Charlotte Hubert and Sarah Guillaume