Cage, John, 1912-1992

Alternative names
Birth 1912-09-05
Death 1992-08-12
English, English

Biographical notes:

John Cage was born in Los Angeles in 1912. He studied composition with Richard Buhlig, Henry Cowell, Adolph Weiss, and Arnold Schoenberg. In 1938 he began working as an accompanist for dance and a teacher at the Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle, Washington. It was here that he first met the dancer Merce Cunningham, with whom he would have a lifelong working relationship. Together they were responsible for a number of radical innovations in musical and choreographic compositions, such as the use of chance operations and the independence of dance and music. Cage was musical adviser for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company until his death in New York City on August 12, 1992.

In the 1940s, Cage moved to New York and joined a group of avant-garde artists, including Cunningham, and painters Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns. During this period, Cage became interested in Eastern thought, particularly Zen, and while his compositions continued his use of carefully structured segments of time, he began to fill them in with materials derived by chance processes. In perhaps the ultimate statement of this aesthetic, he wrote 4′33″, a piece of total silence on the part of the performer into which the random sounds of the world enter. In 1952, at Black Mountain College, he presented a theatrical event considered by many to have been the first Happening.

Cage was the recipient of many awards and honors, beginning in 1949 with a Guggenheim Fellowship and an award from the National Academy of Arts and Letters. He was awarded membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1978), American Academy of Arts and Letters (1989); named Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Legion d'Honneur (1982), laureate of the Kyoto Prize given by the Inamori Foundation (1989); and recipient of an honorary doctorate in performing arts the California Institute of the Arts (1986). Cage was the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University for the academic year 1988-1989.

Cage is the author of many books including Silence, A Year from Monday, M, Empty Words, and X (all published by the Wesleyan University Press). Cage's music is published by C. F. Peters Corporation.

Epithet: composer

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000497.0x000198


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  • Musical sketches
  • Piano music
  • Composers--United States--Correspondence
  • Vocalises (Low voice) with piano
  • Operas--Parts
  • Percussion ensembles
  • Percussion ensemble--Scores
  • Composers--Interviews
  • Concertos (Piano with chamber orchestra)
  • Percussion ensembles--Parts
  • Prepared piano music
  • Orchestral music
  • Songs
  • Electronic music
  • Astronomy--Charts, diagrams, etc
  • Aleatory music
  • Composers--United States
  • Printmaker--Interviews
  • Mycology


  • Composers
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