Aria With Consort
b. 1912 -1992
(Excerpts from Bakers Biographical Dictionary of Musicians) Highly inventive American composer, writer, philosopher and artist of ultramodern tendancies. So important did Cage's work eventually become in music history that even the Encyclopedia Britannica described him as a "composer whose work and revolutionary ideas profoundly influenced mid-20th century music."
He studied composition in California with Adolph Weiss and Schoenberg and with Henry Cowell in NY. He developed Cowell's piano technique, making use of tone clusters and playing directly on the strings, and initiated a type of procedure to be called "prepared piano", which consisits of placing on the piano strings a variety of objects, such as screws, coins and rubber bands, which alter the tone color of individual piano keys.
With the passing years Cage departed from the pragmatism of precise musical notation and definite ways of performance, electing instead to mark his creative intentions in graphic symbols and pictorial representations. He established the principle of indeterminacy in musical composition producing works any 2 performances of which can never be identical. In order to eliminate the subjective element in composition, Cage resorts to a method of selecting the components of his pieces by dice throwing, suggested by the Confucian classic I Ching, and ancient Chinese Oracle book; the result is a system of total serialism, in which all elements pertaining to acoustical pulses, pitch, noise, duration, relative loudness, tempi, combinatory superpositions, etc, are determined by previously drawn charts.
Cage was a consummate showman, and his exhibitions invariably attracted music-lovers and music-haters alike expecting to be exhilarated or outraged as the case may be. In many such public Happenings he departs from musical, unmusical or even antimusical programs in favor of a free exercise of surrealist imagination, often instructing the audience to participate acitvely, as for instance going out into the street and bringing in garbage pails needed for percussion effects, with or without garbage.