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John Cage



Pythagoras, Galileo Galilei, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and John Cage. Each of these men transformed their respective fields, and consequently the world, through their utterly revolutionary thoughts and creations. Cage is widely considered the most influential and controversial American experimental composer of the 20th century, and his body of work reflects Gira Sarabhai's notion that "the purpose of music is to sober and quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences." Cage dismantled virtually every conventional means of thinking about music, from the serialist method of composition and consumption to a highly effective blurring of the lines between musical intent and sound itself. The success and permanence of Cage's work lies largely in his ability to effectively present his revolutionary musical thinking in his compositions. Perhaps the most well-known example of this is 4'33". A performance of 4'33" involves the performer sitting at her instrument for four minutes and thirty-three seconds without playing a single note. Members of the audience are forced to confront their most basic assumptions about music, and the environmental sounds of the Hall and the audience comprise the music for 4'33".

In the Name of the Holocaust and Summer both come from New Albion's Daughters of the Lonesome Isle release. Summer, from The Seasons (Ballet in One Act), draws its influence from Cage's interest in Indian aesthetics and the traditional significance of the seasons: winter as quiescence, spring as creation, summer as preservation, and fall as destruction. Created with help from Lou Harrison and Virgil Thomson, it was Cage's first orchestral score, and was first performed in New York on May 18, 1947.

Part one of In the Name of the Holocaust is an example of Cage's extensive work with the prepared piano. A result of space restrictions at a small theatre in Seattle, Cage developed the prepared piano as a replacement for a percussion orchestra by placing various household objects between the strings of a baby grand piano. The piece presented here requires the performer to play directly on the strings themselves.

Both of these works are performed by Margaret Leng Tan, a legend in her own right. A personal friend of Cage, she was first woman to graduate with a Doctorate of Music from Juilliard, and has championed Cage's work throughout her career.