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After nearly 60 years of composing experimental music and poetry John Cage 78 is a living legend Cages biography reads like a 20th century history of the avant garde in America Born in California and a longtime resident of Manhattan Cage became curious about experimental writing and music early on In 1928 long before the rest of America he was reading the Cubist work of Gertrude Stein By 1934 he was studyin counterpoint music theory with Arnold Schoenberg one of the masters of 12 tone theory He has been the musical adviser to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company since 1943 and has written some of his best-known pieces for this modern dance troupe Throughout the years Cage has been elected to nearly every academy of arts in existenceincluding the Institute of the American Academy the Institute of Arts and Letters and the Academy of Arts and Letters among others Hes received several honorary doctorate degrees including one from the prestigious California Institute of Arts in 1986 Most recently Cage was made the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University for 198889 In short though Cages aesthetic takes effort to fully appreciate his work is not likely to vanish Chance operation a phrase that Cage coined years ago is the basis of his work It involves a random process of choice-making in terms of what note to play or what instrument to be used in a musical composition Chance operation is based on an elaborate and articulate view of the universe as being in a state of flux or ordered chaos It lends itself to an almost infinite variety of choices to make in terms of available sounds and the arrangement of sounds and silence Cage discovered the possiblity of silence in music In his book Silence Wesleyan University Press 1961 Cage discusses at length his observations of silence When we think we hear
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