Musicians Honor John Cage on Centenary of his Birth

In the week of September 5, 2012, celebrations were held in a number of venues across the world in honor of the centenary of the birth of John Cage – an American composer, music theorist, artist and writer who was considered to be ahead of his time in the music world and who gathered a devoted following of fans throughout his career and beyond. He was a pioneer in a range of music genres and concepts, including the use of musical instruments in unconventional ways and electroacoustic music. Together with long-time partner Merce Cunningham, John Cage also influenced the development of modern dance.

In Washington DC, events were held at a number of art museums, including the renowned Hirshhorn, the National Gallery and the Smithsonian – with the latter hosting performances, discussions and talks. Commemorative events were also planned for Los Angeles – Cage’s birthplace –New York and Houston, as well as in Stuttgart in Germany, Lublin in Poland and Istanbul in Turkey.

Born in Los Angeles on September 5, 1912, John Milton Cage Jr. was considered by many to be an influential cultural figure in the 20th century, while others found his work to be too modernist. Nonetheless he made a lasting impression with his experimental works. In a feature by the Los Angeles Times it is noted that Paul McCartney showed an interest in John Cage’s work in the mid-1960s, with the chaotic orchestral sound in the Beatle’s song A Day in the Life believed to have been influenced by Cage’s work. A similar pattern is seen in a number of John Lennon’s later songs, including Revolution 9. Other musicians and composers who may have been influenced by Cage include Steve Reich, Brian Eno, La Monte Young, Sonic Youth and Anthony Braxton.

When asked to give her impression of John Cage, Yoko Ono noted that the history of Western music can be divided into BC and AC, Before Cage and After Cage, counting herself lucky to have called him a friend. Others in the music world appreciated the fact that John Cage taught them to listen beyond the notes being played, with many agreeing with the musical genius’s observation that “Everything is music”.