JOHN CAGE was born in Los Angeles in 1912. He studied with Richard Buhlig, Henry Cowell, Adolph Weiss, and Arnold Schoenberg. In 1938 Cage composed the first prepared piano piece, Bacchanale, for a dance by Syvilla Fort. In 1951, he organized a group of musicians and engineers to make the first music on magnetic tape. In 1952, at Black Mountain College, he presented a theatrical event considered by many to have been the first Happening. In 1958, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Emile de Antonio organized a 25-year retrospective concert of his music at Town Hall in New York. He is musical advisor for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, having been associated with Merce Cunningham since 1943.
In 1949 Cage received a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Award from the National Academy of Arts and Letters for having extended the boundaries of music through his work with percussion orchestra and his invention of the prepared piano. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978, and to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1988. In 1982 the French Legion d'Honneur made Cage a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He received the Notable Achievement award from Brandeis University in 1983. He received the degree Doctorate of All the Arts Honoris Causa from the California Institute of the Arts in 1986. Cage was the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University for the 1988-89 academic year. He is a laureate of the 1989 Kyoto Prize given by the Inamori Foundation.
Commissions include Thirty Pieces for Five Orchestras (1981) for the Orchestre de Lorraine and the Centre Europeen pour la Recherche Musical, and Dance/4 Orchestras (1981) for the 1982 Cabrillo Festival, Aptos, California. A House Full of Music was commissioned by Radio Bremen in May 1982. Roaratorio, An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake (1979), commissioned and co-produced by the West German Radio, the South German Radio, and the Dutch Catholic Radio, and realized in collaboration with John Fullemann in the IRCAM studios in Paris, was awarded the Karl Sczuka Prize in 1979. A collaborative version of Roaratorio with the Cunningham Dance Company was presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in October 1986.
Cage went to Japan in December 1986 for the premiere of Etcetera 2/4 Orchestras, which was commissioned by the Suntory International Program for Music Composition. His 75th birthday was celebrated with a week of concerts by the Los Angeles Festival, September 5-12, 1987. He wrote, designed and directed Europeras 1 & 2, with the assistance of Andrew Culver, for the Frankfurt Opera. The opera received its world premiere on December 12th, 1987. The Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University co-commissioned 101 for premiere performances in April 1989. He was commissioned to write Europeras 3 & 4 in 1990 for the Almeida Music Festival. The 1991 Zurich June Festival was devoted to the work John Cage and James Joyce. In September 1992 the Frankfurt Feste presented "Anarchic Harmony", a comprehensive festival of some 25 concerts of Cage's music, including several premieres.
Cage is the author of Silence (1961), A Year From Monday (1968), M (1973), Empty Words (1979), and X (1983), all published by the Wesleyan University Press; Notations (with Alison Knowles, 1969), published by Something Else Press; Writings Through Finnegans Wake (1979), published by Printed Editions; For The Birds (conversations with Daniel Charles) (1981), published by Marion Boyars; Another Song (accompanying photographs by Susan Barron) and Mud Book (with illustrations by Lois Long), both published by Callaway Editions; and Themes and Variations (1982), published by the Station Hill Press. I - VI (the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures delivered at Harvard in 1988-89) was published by the Harvard University Press in Spring 1990. The book includes transcripts of the question and answer periods that followed each lecture, and an audio cassette of Cage reading one of the six lectures. The First Meeting of the Satie Society (with illustrations by Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, Sol Lewitt, Mell Daniel, the author, and Henry David Thoreau as rendered by Benjamin Schiff) is in preparation by the Limited Editions Club. The texts, without illustrations, are also accessible by modem from the Art Com Electronic Network carried by WELL (Whole Earth `Lectronic Link), San Francisco.
Conversing with Cage, a book-length composition of excerpts from interviews, by Richard Kostelanetz, was released in 1988 by Limelight Editions. John Cage. An Anthology, edited by Richard Kostelanetz, first published in 1970, was re-released in 1991 by Da Capo Press. David Revill's biography, The Roaring Silence. John Cage: A Life, was published by Arcade (New York) in late 1992.
John Cage's graphic works include Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel with Calvin Sumsion (1969), Mushroom Book with Lois Long and Alexander Smith (1974); and several series of etchings and monoprints made at the Crown Point Press, San Francisco, between 1978 and 1990. 52 paintings, the New River Watercolors, recently executed by Cage at the Miles C. Horton Center at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, made a tour of several Virginia museums and were shown at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC in April/May 1990.
John Cage's music is published by the Henmar Press of C.F. Peters Corporation. Recordings of his work are available from Wergo, Mode, New Albion, CRI, Columbia, Nonesuch, Folkways, Everest, Time, Cramps, C/P2 and many other labels.
John Cage died in New York City on August 12th, 1992.