John Cage -- whose 100th birthday will be celebrated on September 5, 2012 -- continues to influence and inspire composers and listeners around the world.
While his pre-chance works, particularly the prepared piano works of the 1940's such as Sonatas and Interludes (1948), earned critical acclaim, his adoption of chance operations in 1951 cost him a number of friendships and led criticisms from fellow composers. Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen, both formerly on friendly terms with Cage, dismissed indeterminate music, the former criticizing him for "adoption of a philosophy tinged with Orientalism that masks a basic weakness in compositional technique."
Prominent critics of serialism, including Iannis Xenakis, were similarly hostile: the adoption of chance in music was "an abuse of language and . . . an abrogation of a composer's function."
The cynicism with which this departure seems to have been made is symbolized in Cage's account of a public lecture: "Later, during the question period, I gave one of six previously prepared answers regardless of the question asked. This was a reflection of my engagement in Zen." Such works as 4′33″ and Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (24 performers on 12 radios) are of enormous importance representing the complete abdication of the artist's power.
While much of Cage's work remains controversial, his influence on countless composers, artists, and writers is notable.
After Cage introduced chance, critics Boulez, Stockhausen, and Xenakis all adopted chance procedures in some of their works, although in a much more restricted manner). Other composers who adopted chance procedures in their works included Mauricio Kagel, Witold Lutosławski, and Krzysztof Penderecki.
Cage's indeterminacy, allied with his rhythmic structural experiments and interest in sound, influenced a number of composers, including close associates Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, and Christian Wolff, and Fluxus / minimalist composers, such as La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass. Many of the English experimental school acknowledge his influence, including Gavin Bryars, who studied under Cage briefly, and Michael Nyman.
Additional influencees include George Crumb, Toru Takemitsu, Mark Alburger, Erling Wold, Frank Zappa, Brian Eno, Sonic Youth (who perform some of the Number Pieces), and Aphex Twin, which has utilized prepared piano.
Cage's work as musicologist helped popularize Erik Satie's music, and his friendship with Abstract expressionist artists such as Robert Rauschenberg helped introduce his ideas into visual art.
In this centenary year, Cage celebrations are being held around the world throughout the year. A partial list up to the composer's September 5, 2012 birthday includes:
September 6, 2011
A Year from Monday. 365 Tage Cage. Akademie der Kunste, Berlin, Germany. Through September 5, 2012.
January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012
Daniel Scandurra presents cage 100 saidas )exits(. Brazil.
centocage / Bologna Pays Tribute to John Cage / 1912-1992-2012. Bologna, Italy.
EVERYDAYJOHNCAGE. Rimini, Italy.
John Cage Year Lublin 2012. Centre for Intercultural Creative Initiatives Crossroads, Lublin, Poland.
February 5, 15-16
John Cage's Songbooks, 103, Fifty-Eight, Etcetera, Dance, Fontana Mix, Aria, WBAI, Water Walk, Theater Piece. Roy and Edna Disney Theater, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA.
2011-2012 Southwest Chamber Music 25th Anniversary Season: Cage 2012. Los Angeles, CA. Through March 24.
johncage100. Switzerland. Through March 4, 2013.
San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra's 10th-Anniversary Gala, with music of Igor Stravinsky and John Cage. Old First Church, San Francisco, CA.
Darmstadt 2012: John Cage Centennial Concert. ISSUE Project Room, Brooklyn, NY
July 6, 11, 18
JOHN CAGE 100, on water. Bargemusic, New York, NY.
souvenir, including John Cage's Souvenir. Havnar Kirkja, Torshavn, Faroe Islands, Denmark.
Internationale Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik. Internationale Ensemble Modern Adademie plays John Cage's Sonata for Clarinet, Water Music, and Ten. Mathildenhohe, Darmstadt, Germany.
River to River Festival: Alarm Will Sound presents John Cage's Songbooks. New York, NY.
Park der Klange: Birthday of the Modern American Composition Legend John Cage, with the Ensemble Megaphon. KulturGut Poggenhagen, Germany.
JOHN CAGE YEAR BYDGOSZCZ 2012: a concert for four double bassists and male voice, inspired by Cage's text, Overpopulation and Art. MOZG, Poland.
Modern Poets: John Cage Day. Sculpture Garden, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.
Ruhrtriennale 2012: John Cage's Europeras 1 and 2. Jahrhunderthalle, Germany.
Locrian Chamber Players celebrate the Cage Centennial with new prepared piano works. Riverside Church, New York, NY.
August 28 - September 1
Flussi 2012 -- Out Of CAge. Teatro Carlo Gesualdo, Italy.
John Cage Anniversary Concert. Lappeenranta Music Institute, Finland.
September 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
120 Hours for John Cage, 24 hours every Saturday in September 2012. WGXC, Green and Columbia Counties, NY.
John Cage 100: a 24-hour celebration. Parkteatret, Norway.
John Cage Centennial Festival. Washington, DC. Through September 10.
Happy (Early) Birthday John Cage. University of North Carolina, Pembroke, NC.
An Opening of Doors: Music of John Cage in Celebration of his 100th Birthday. La Sala Rossa, Canada.
The Age of Cage -- Credo in WI. Caligari Filmbuhne, Germany.
John Cage's Musicircus, a Festival and Conference. Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, Moscow, Russia.
John Cage at 100! Symphony Space, New York, NY.
John Cage Variety Show Big Band. The Stone, New York, NY.