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The Silent Noise of John Cage

The Silent Noise of John Cage

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Published by Sabrina Pena Young
Short essay on experimental composer John Cage.
Short essay on experimental composer John Cage.

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Published by: Sabrina Pena Young on Nov 22, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Silent Noise of John Cage - Essay ExcerptWhen John Cage asked a close friend, how one created history, his friend replied,"You have to invent it." Cage then set out to create his own musical history, that ofexperimentalism (Cage, Autobiographical 1). This movement included composersMorton Feldman, Pauline Oliveros, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, and many others who,along with Cage, stretched the boundaries of music composition and broke away fromthe East Coast post serialists. Largely because of geographical location, rock music andOriental thought influenced experimental music. They revolted against Occidentalmusic, embracing the plurality and percussive nature of Easter Music.Cage believed that "IN THE UNITED STATES THERE ARE AS MANY WAYS OFWRITING As THERE ARE COMPOSERS" (Cage, Silence 52). Cage did not studymusic in a formal institution and was unable to hear melodies in his head. For him,listening to a performance of his compositions and the actual composing involved twodifferent processes. Arnold Schoenberg discouraged the young Cage, telling him,"You'll come to a wall and never be able to get through." To which Cage replied, "ThenI'll spend my life knocking my head against the wall." (Cage, Autobiographical 2).Zen Buddhism entered Cage's life after the failure of "The city wears a slouch hat".Dejected, he fled to Seattle and taught at the Cornish School of Design, where "hetempered his worldly ambition and sought tranquility through a more modest art ofacceptance." (Pritchett, Story 3). Unlike other postmoderns, who endeavored to achievesuccess by assimilating into popular culture, Cage faught against "THE DUALISTICTERMS OF SUCCESS AND FAILURE OR THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE UGLY ORGOOD AND EVIL." (Cage, Silence 47).The Eastern idea of a goal-less society lef Cage to introduc a type of music that lackeda tonal center (not unlike Schoenberg's serial music ) and lacked exact rhythmic meter.As Pritchett stated, " he's following a system -- but he has no idea where he's going (Six40). cage rejected the evaluation of music because it defeated its overall purpose. hesaw music as "processes essentially purposeless, " where "sounds are just sounds"(French 391).Cage and his followers refused to imitate Westen composers who "write...thesame piece over and over again" (Willaims 63). He decided to base his music onrhymthm. Excited with the unlimited possibilities unleahsed with this new concept,quickly began radical experiments in rhythm and sound. Complex mathematicalpatterns gave birth to mircho-macrocosmic structure, in which the "large parts of acomposition had the same proportion as the phrases of a single unit." (Cage,Autobiographical 2). Once he discovered this musical form at the Cornish School, hebegan to employ other complex mathematical theorems to music. Reactions to hismusic were mixed. After a performance at the Chicago Arts Club, the Chicago DailyNews stated, "People call it noise--but he calls it music." In a sense, both cage and the

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