Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage by Kenneth Silverman

By Kenneth Silverman

John Cage used to be a guy of remarkable and doubtless unlimited skills: musician, inventor, composer, poet. He grew to become a relevant determine of the avant-garde early in his lifestyles and remained at that top till his dying in 1992 on the age of 80. Now award-winning biographer Kenneth Silverman supplies us the 1st entire lifetime of this impressive artist. We stick to Cage from his la childhood—his father was once a winning inventor—through his remain in Paris from 1930 to 1931, the place immersion within the burgeoning new musical and inventive events brought on an explosion of creativity in him and, after his go back to the States, into his stories with the seminal glossy composer Arnold Schoenberg. We see Cage’s early experiments with sound and percussion tools, and watch as he develops his signature paintings with ready piano, radio static, random noise, and silence. We study of his many friendships through the years with different composers, artists, philosophers, and writers; of his early marriage and several other fans, either male and female; and of his lengthy dating with choreographer Merce Cunningham, with whom he might collaborate on significantly strange dances that proceed to persuade the worlds of either song and dance.

Drawing on interviews with Cage’s contemporaries and neighbors and at the huge, immense archive of his letters and writings, and together with photos, facsimiles of musical ratings, and net hyperlinks to illustrative sections of his compositions, Silverman provides us a biography of significant importance: a revelatory portrait of 1 of an important cultural figures of the 20th century.

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Although no longer “essential” to her, she said, he remained “very dear. ” Cage had a revelation for Xenia too. At the time he met her he was living with Don Sample. ” His relationship with Don Sample had become “promiscuous,” he added, both of them getting involved with other people. At some time during their stay in New York, Cage reportedly had a brief affair with the rising young architect Philip Johnson, who had organized an influential show of international architecture at the city’s Museum of Modern Art.

Cage composed some of his first percussion music when he and Xenia went to live in Santa Monica, probably late in 1937. They survived on only fifty dollars a month, he recalled, money he earned scrounging odd jobs and doing research for lawyers. The couple moved into a large house run by a bookbinder named Hazel Dreis, an artist at her trade whose covering materials included python. Cage and Xenia both learned to bind books—Xenia most actively, though he enjoyed designing the covers. The shop also supplied performers and instruments for his new percussion pieces.

Henry Cowell had composed a piece decades earlier in which he hit the keyboard with his whole forearm. Cage climaxed Construction in Metal by slamming it with a board that covered all the keys, and had a female performer, probably Xenia, smash a lime rickey bottle into a tin wash boiler half filled with broken glass. Cage capped his creations as a composer at Cornish by inventing a new musical instrument—the prepared piano. Surviving accounts of its birth and development differ. According to the dancer/teacher Bonnie Bird, the concept came to Cage around March 1939 by accident.

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