Happy 100, Mr. Cage!

by: Emily Kirkpatrick

October 8, 2012

John Cage, the legendary avant-garde, experimental composer and sound artist, would have turned 100 this year, and New York has thrown itself full tilt into the centennial celebrations.

John Cage WILD Music

In September, The New York Mycological Society, founded by Cage, a mushroom enthusiast, staged his piece “49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs for Performer(s) or Listener(s)” at Cooper Union this September, taking ambient noise from 49 New York City locations and playing them through speakers scattered around Cooper Union’s Great Hall. On September 28th, NYU held a screening of “Cage on Cage: An Interview” (1982), which features rare footage of the then seventy-year-old artist talking with art dealer Virginia Dwan about his life and music, touching on topics of art, philosophy, and social issues. The film comes from the Dwan Gallery Archives who are hoping to release and distribute “Cage on Cage” to a wider audience later this year.

To continue the birthday festivities, the John Cage Trust will also be releasing an iPhone and Android application that puts Cage’s compositional genius right at your fingertips. The application, called CagePiano, offers the user a keyboard featuring thirty-six high-quality sound samples from Cage’s “prepared piano,” a piano that had its sound altered with screws, hammers, and other random objects. The app allows you to compose your own Cageian piece, record it, and easily share with friends.

It’s not just Cage’s aural talents, however, that are on display. The National Academy is currently showing an exhibition of Cage’s watercolors from the late 1980s and 90s that he made while attending the Mountain Lake Workshop in Virginia. They will also be sponsoring a series of performances by artists, poets and experimental musicians, called “Chance Encounters,” that features pieces inspired by and dedicated to the late Cage.

Finally, in November the S.E.M Ensemble will be sponsoring performances by modern, avant-garde musicians interpreting some of Cage’s most seminal and influential compositional works.

John Cage’s posthumous 100th birthday celebrates the immense range of influence and incredible longevity of this musical pioneer. In honor of 100 years of Cage, The Wild will be throwing a little celebration of our own, spending the next four minutes and thirty-three seconds in total silence. 

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