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Silence: Lectures and Writings


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JOHN CAGE (1912-1992) was an American composer, philosopher, poet, music theorist, artist, printmaker, and amateur mycologist. A pioneer of percussion, chance, and electronic music, Cage was one of the most influential American composers of the twentieth century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance in America, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham. Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4'33," the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played. KYLE GANN is one of the nation's leading music critics. Since 1997 he has taught music theory, history, and composition at Bard College. He is the author of The Music of Conlon Nancarrow, American Music in the 20th Century, Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice, No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33," and Robert Ashley.


"Kyle Gann has written a breezy and often informative foreword that includes the principal events of Cage's life, some reminiscences, some interesting critical remarks on selected essays, and--most helpful--a list of names and biographical sketches of characters that populate Cage's entertaining anecdotes."--American Record Guide
"Prefacing the handsome 50th anniversary edition of Cage's seminal collection of writings, Silence, is an introductory essay by Bard College's Kyle Gann. Cage's writing can be hard going--it's often more modernist poetry than prose essay--but Gann invites readers to appreciate the composer's call to slip the bonds of logic, to stop making sense and transcend the artistic ego. Merrily thumbing his nose at ambition and desire in the arts, Cage's writings should be carefully considered in a world where the narcissism of self-expression threatens to occlude all else."--David Luhrssen, Shepherd Express
"'I have nothing to say, and I am saying it.' The line, probably John Cage's most famous statement, appears three times over in his book Silence, which Wesleyan University Press has reissued in a smart fiftieth anniversary edition that also coincides with the centenary of the author's birth. A self-devouring paradox, Cage's modest avowal neatly draws attention to the impossibility of saying nothing, for once a frame of communication has been set up, be that frame a book or a musical score, a sheet of paper mounted in a gallery space or a performance scheduled in a concerthall (and Cage worked in all these media), emptiness will speak."--Paul Griffiths, Times Literary Supplement
"As the unchallenged father figure of American experimental music, Mr. Cage wields an influence that extends far beyond sound alone. . . . Indeed, the entire American avant-garde would be unthinkable without Mr. Cage's music, writings, and genially patriarchical personality."--John Rockwell, The New York Times
"Of all Cage's books, it is perhaps the first, Silence, which has had the broadest impact. Even now, artists of all sorts continue to respond to its Zen principles, its chance procedures, and its revolutionary ideas about sound, silence, form, and time."--Dance Chronicle
"'It's the book I've reread most often in my life, ' writes the composer-critic Kyle Gann in his illuminating foreword to the 50th anniversary edition. ... To reread Silence today is to see how complex, playful, but also deeply ironic Cage's seemingly upbeat and casual aesthetic really was."--Marjorie Perloff, Los Angeles Review of Books
"Cage's 1959 'Lecture on Nothing'...remains a touchstone for artists thinking about how to empty their work of themselves. It has just reappeared in a 50th anniversary edition of Cage's classic first book, Silence." --Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

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