John Cage was an American 20th Century avant-garde composer. Zen Buddhism was a significant influence on his work, and many of his pieces were composed using chance operations. In one of his most well-known pieces, 4’33” (1952), a pianist sits silently at a piano with their hands at rest. Cage pioneered the “prepared piano” where unconventional objects lay on piano strings. He was among the first to blend acoustic and electric sounds in compositions. Cage was the musical director of choreographer Merce Cunningham’s Dance Company, and also Cunningham’s life partner.
Cage was a prolific music theorist while serving as faculty at Wesleyan. In our collection at Mechanics’, we hold Cage’s writing, including his groundbreaking text Silence (1961), as well as his later text X (1979-1982). The Library also holds multiple sound recordings of his compositions performed by Merce Cunningham Dance Company, string quartets, chamber orchestras, prepared piano, and percussion. Visit the 3rd Floor Display to bring home Cage’s work.