When an unfamiliar name pops up, I may or may not pay attention, unless it happens twice in a day. John Cage was big at the Guggenheim’s The Third Mind and then at Merce Cunningham’s Nearly Ninety at BAM, where the program noted that the Merce Cunningham Dance Company was partly founded by John Cage. I started to pay attention.
Yes, the same man is connected with the circle drawings above at the Guggenheim, the photo on the left, the Fluxus movement, Merce Cunningham, and silent music. I was surprised by the collaboration of Sonic Youth and Merce Cunningham, but apparently Sonic Youth, the experimental rock band, are fans of Cage who included 3 of his pieces on their album SYR4.
John Cage (1912-1992) was primarily a composer, albeit one more fascinated by sounds in themselves than creating structure. His most (in)famous piece, 4’33, consists of three movements of silence, signaled by the pianist opening and shutting the piano. The idea behind it is to open you the the noises in the room, the rustling, the whispers, sounds from the street. Many people at the original performance did not appreciate this.
John Cage’s Experimental Composition classes in the 1950s have become legendary as an American source of Fluxus, the international network of artists, composers, and designers. In addition to music, Cage created works of visual art, like the one above referring to his old chess partner Marcel Duchamp, and writings. Cage was also a life-long mushroom collector.