John Cage (1912-1992)

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John Cage Considered: An Introduction (Broadcast March 22, 1965, KPFA)

A tentative introduction and preliminary remarks about the music, aesthetics and phenomenon of John Cage. Recorded in 1965 this program contains the comments of Charles Shere on the life and music of the most famous of American avant-garde composers. The program, which relies on a 1964 New Yorker article about Cage, a catalogue of his works published by Peters Edition, and Cages own book of essays Silence, for its background information, starts with a description of Cages early education and career as a lecturer on modern art. Shere then goes on to play excerpts from a number of Cage's early compositions in order to illustrate Cage's evolution from a student of Schoenberg to a composer experimenting with new sounds and techniques. By 1951 Cage had begun to become interested in Zen Buddhism and the role of chance operations in composition, two ideas that would influence all his later works. Shere plays a recording of the premiere performance of Cages Imaginary Landscape No. 4 scored for 12 radios. This performance which relies completely on chance operations for its structure, was given at Columbia University on May 1, 1951 and shocked the musical world, thus setting Cage firmly upon the road to becoming the most controversial composer of his generation. New York Times music critic, Virgil Thomson famously suggested that future performances of the piece never be done before a paying audience.

Musical Selections: 6 Short Inventions on the Subjects of the Solo, for 3 or more instruments [excerpt] (1934) / John Cage -- First Construction in Metal [excerpt] (1939) / John Cage -- Amores, for prepared piano and percussion [1st & 3rd movements] (1943) / John Cage -- String Quartet in 4 Parts [2nd movement: “Autumn in New York”] (1949-50) / John Cage -- Imaginary Landscapes No. 4, for twelve radios [world premiere] (1951) / John Cage

Performers: Maro Ajemian, prepared piano (Amores)