William Weir

2010: The Year of John Cage?

In 20th century music on January 10, 2011 at 2:17 am

Is there any doubt that 2010 was the year of John Cage? He was the subject of two books and, in December, for the first time ever, appeared on the UK pop charts (all part of the Cage Against the Machine craziness they had going over there).

The first book to come out this year, Kyle Gann’s “No Such Thing as Silence,” is a fantastic consideration of Cage’s 4’33” and is on my short list of best books of 2010 (the above video is a mash-up of several versions of 4’33”). The other is a straight-up biography: “Begin Again” by Kenneth Silverman. I have it but haven’t read it yet, partly because much of what I’ve heard about it sounds a lot like this:

[A] critical flaw in Silverman’s book, which for all the esteem in which it holds Cage, never quite breaks through a kind of surface telling, a recitation of facts and information without the nuance that marked its subject’s remarkable artistic life.

That’s from David L. Ulin’s review of the book in today’s LA Times (which is what made me think to post this in the first place). On the other hand, you could do a lot worse than spend your time reading a nuts and bolts biography of John Cage. I’ll give you my thoughts when I finish it.


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