John Cage is marvellous and more than a bit mad

John Cage is marvellous and more than a bit mad

Album Of The Week

norman lebrecht

August 05, 2022

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

When John Cage came to Moscow in the summer of 1988, it was not so much a convergence of opposites as a validation of the prophecy of cultural deconstruction which the American iconoclast had long foretold. Cage made music by breaking it down, causing records to stick in a groove, telling performers to chance it, making silence instead of sound. The Soviet Union, in its final disintegration year, was the perfect place to preach his kooky doctrines….

Read on here.

And here.

En francais ici.

In Czech here.



  • caranome says:

    In any other profession, Cage would have been arrested for fraud. It’s like charging $100 for a 4-course meal and you sit there for 2 hours staring at empty plates and imagining how great it was. And then the food critics and scholars oohs and ahhs on how fine dining has been “reimagined”, and telling all of us we are bunch of dullards and peasants for not getting it. What a racket.

    • MER says:

      Those who continue to mock John Cage are understandably missing the point due to his extreme abstractions and stark simplicities, not grasping how he embodies the true spirit of Western classical music navigating necessary cycles of creation and destruction as opposed to being a materialistic and superficial intruder. Not that there’s anything wrong with museum-consciousness, we just need to recognize it for what it is – living in the past, which again is fine for those who prefer it. And it’s fine, too, for those who understand and respect John Cage while not being in tune with his accomplishments.

    • Couperin says:

      Lots of “weirder” composers than Cage at this point. How’s about next time you’re being forced at gunpoint to sit through some mega-quiet Cage piece, you stand up and scream your comment a few times? I’m sure Cage would approve. Then you’d be laughed outta the joint and hopefully, banned for life.

    • Jon Eiche says:

      Our music theory professor arranged for Cage to visit our campus in the late 1970s, and he prepared us by saying that composers like Cage fulfilled the important purpose of keeping everyone else from taking themselves too seriously. If he was right, and if I grasp anything at all about Cage’s music, I think it’s the antithesis of the stuffy charlatanism you depict.

    • Freewheeler says:

      One day I’m going to dynamite Cage’s grave. And Boulez’s. Is he dead yet?

    • Maria says:

      You can’t compare way over-priced food and the magic of sound.

    • Peter San Diego says:

      That might be true if all Cage had ever done was 4’33”. But he did a lot more, some of it uninteresting, some of it marvelous.

  • MER says:

    When I visited John Cage in the Chelsea loft he shared with Merce Cummingham on a bitterly cold winter afternoon, artwork on the walls by Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg was dazzling, but not more so than Cage’s spontaneous smile.

  • Alan says:

    A total spoofer

  • Nightowl says:

    I groove to 4’33 for 24 hours in a day, everyday!

  • Duncan says:

    Some of Cage’s music is quite beautiful (sonatas and interludes for example) but yes, there are pieces which can puzzle or annoy. His achievement was to make people listen and to consider the borders between music, noise and silence. If he seems reactionary and off-the-wall he is no worse than many other contemporary creative artists and this crazy world of ours sometimes needs crazy people to make us think.

  • JIm Dukey says:

    “Where is the Should?”
    John Cage

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    John Cage was not a charlatan. He was a very successful businessman (after he found the way, about 1950). In his late years he had many more commissions than a 70(+)-year-old could manage. Well done!