John Cage

John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912August 12, 1992) was an American composer. A pioneer of chance music, electronic music and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde and, in the opinion of many, the most influential American composer of the 20th century.


  • I believe that the use of noise to make music will continue and increase until we reach a music produced through the use of electrical instruments which will make available for musical purposes any and all sounds that can be heard. Photoelectric, film and mechanical mediums for the synthetic production of music will be explored.
    • "The Future of Music: Credo" (1937)
  • "Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating."
    • "The Future of Music: Credo" (1937)
  • I have nothing to say/ and I am saying it/ and that is poetry/ as I need it.
    • "Lecture on Nothing" (1949)
  • We need not destroy the past. It is gone.
    • "Lecture on Nothing" (1949)
  • I remember loving sound before I ever took a music lesson. And so we make our lives by what we love.
    • "Lecture on Nothing" (1949)
  • A finished work is exactly that, requires resurrection.
    • Forerunners of Modern Music (1949), first published in the New York journal A Tiger's Eye, later collected in Silence.
  • I imagine that as contemporary music goes on changing in the way that I'm changing it what will be done is to more and more completely liberate sounds from abstract ideas about them and more and more exactly to let them be physically uniquely themselves. This means for me: knowing more and more not what I think a sound is but what it actually is in all of its acoustical details and then letting this sound exist, itself, changing in a changing sonorous environment.
    • 1952, quoted in Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music, ISBN 0028645812
  • A sound does not view itself as thought, as ought, as needing another sound for its elucidation, as etc.; it has not time for any consideration--it is occupied with the performance of its characteristics: before it has died away it must have made perfectly exact its frequency, its loudness, its length, its overtone structure, the precise morphology of these and of itself.
    • 1955, quoted in Classic Essays on Twentieth-Century Music, ISBN 0028645812
  • Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music.
    • "Experimental Music" (1957)
  • Which is more musical, a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school?
    Are the people inside the school musical and the ones outside unmusical?
    • "Communication", the third of the Composition as a Process lectures given in Darmstadt in 1958 and published in Silence.
  • I certainly had no feeling for harmony, and Schoenberg thought that that would make it impossible for me to write music. He said, "You'll come to a wall you won't be able to get through." I said, "Well then, I'll beat my head against that wall." I quite literally began hitting things, and developed a music of percussion that involved noises.
    • Interview in Observer magazine (1982), repeated on several occasions
  • “What I'm proposing, to myself and other people, is what I often call the tourist attitude - that you act as though you've never been there before. So that you're not supposed to know anything about it. If you really get down to brass tacks, we have never been anywhere before.”
  • "Art's purpose is to sober and quiet the mind so that it is in accord with what happens."
    • 1982, quoted in "John Cage Visual Art: To Sober and Quiet the Mind", ISBN 1891300164
  • I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.
  • Value judgments are destructive to our proper business, which is curiosity and awareness.
    • Quoted in Richard Kostelanetz (1988) Conversing with Cage
  • As far as consistency of thought goes, I prefer inconsistency.
    • Interview by John Corbett (1989)
  • They say, "you mean it's just sounds?" thinking that for something to just be a sound is to be useless, whereas I love sounds just as they are, and I have no need for them to be anything more than what they are. I don't want them to be psychological. I don't want a sound to pretend that it's a bucket or that it's president or that it's in love with another sound. I just want it to be a sound.
    • Interview in documentary "Listen" (1992)

About CageEdit

  • Cage's Music of Changes was a further indication that the arts in general were beginning to consciously deal with the "given" material and, to varying degrees, liberating them from the inherited, functional concepts of control.

See alsoEdit

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