John Cage: Composed in America

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University of Chicago Press, Aug 1, 1994 - Biography & Autobiography - 285 pages
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When the great avant-gardist John Cage died, just short of his eightieth birthday in 1992, he was already the subject of dozens of interviews, memoirs, and discussions of his contribution to music, music theory, and performance practice. But Cage never thought of himself as only (or even primarily) a composer; he was a poet, a visual artist, a philosophical thinker, and an important cultural critic.

John Cage: Composed in America is the first book-length work to address the "other" John Cage, a revisionist treatment of the way Cage himself has composed and been "composed" in America. Cage, as these original essays testify, is a contradictory figure. A disciple of Duchamp and Schoenberg, Satie and Joyce, he created compositions that undercut some of these artists' central principles and then attributed his own compositional theories to their "tradition." An American in the Emerson-Thoreau mold, he paradoxically won his biggest audience in Europe. A freewheeling, Californian artist, Cage was committed to a severe work ethic and a firm discipline, especially the discipline of Zen Buddhism.

Following the text of Cage's lecture-poem "Overpopulation and Art," delivered at Stanford shortly before his death and published here for the first time, ten critics respond to the challenge of the complexity and contradiction exhibited in his varied work. In keeping with Cage's own interdisciplinarity, the critics approach that work from a variety of disciplines: philosophy (Daniel Herwitz, Gerald L. Bruns), biography and cultural history (Thomas S. Hines), game and chaos theory (N. Katherine Hayles), music culture (Jann Pasler), opera history (Herbert Lindenberger), literary and art criticism (Marjorie Perloff), cultural poetics (Gordana P. Crnkovic, Charles Junkerman), and poetic practice (Joan Retallack). But such labels are themselves confining: each of the essays sets up boundaries only to cross them at key points. The book thus represents, to use Cage's own phrase, a much needed "beginning with ideas."
 

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Contents

Overpopulation and Art
The Model of the Musicircus
The Los Angeles Years 19121938
Writing through Marcel
Cages Composition in Retrospect
The Europeras and the Aesthetics of Opera
Utopian America and the Language of Silence
John Cages Approach to the Global
John Cage and Stanley Cavell at the Crossroads of Ethical Theory
Cagean Paradox and Contemporary Science
Poethics of a Complex Realism
Appendix
List of Contributors
Index
Copyright

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About the author (1994)

Marjorie Perloff is professor of English emerita at Stanford University and the Florence R. Scott Professor of English Emerita at the University of Southern California. She is the author of many books, including, most recently, Poetics in a New Key and Unoriginal Genius , also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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