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John Cage

An introduction to the extraordinary life of John Cage, composer, writer, and artist

John Cage was a giant of American experimental music--composer, writer, and artist. He is most widely known for his 1952 composition 4'33, whose three movements continue to challenge the definition of music by being performed without playing a single note. In questioning fundamental tenets of Western music, Cage was often at the center of controversy, and is regarded as an important contributor to many facets of American culture.

To enable readers to understand what makes Cage such an extraordinary figure, David Nicholls masterfully places his striking body of prose and poetry, over 300 music compositions, and prominent performance career into historical, environmental, intellectual, philosophical, and aesthetic contexts. Nicholls' intimate study of John Cage's personal and professional life confirms the legacy of this major figure in twentieth-century American culture.

"[This] volume sheds a valuable beam of light on the composer, cutting through the obfuscation that has settled around him. . . . A very fine book."--The Wire

"The book places these experimental pieces in a context outside of the assumed joke or prank. The history, if incapable of humanizing the music, humanizes the composer."--Pop Matters

"In this interesting and illuminating work - part biography, part critical assessment - David Nicholls . . . chronicles and critiques the composer's life. . . . This is an easily accessible and well-written overview of Cage's work that is addressed to both general readers and serious music lovers."--Sydney Morning Herald

"Nicholls offers invaluable insights into the American cultural icon whom the California Institute of the Arts dubbed, in awarding him an honorary doctorate, 'Doctor of all the Arts.' . . . Recommended."--Choice

"Nicholls provides an informative and readable narrative. Impeccably researched and well-written, the author imparts the meaningfulness of the music as well as the writings of Cage, demonstrating his impact on the performance, perception, and conception of music."--Notes

"Nicholls offers a meticulously researched and beautifully crafted narrative that lays equal emphasis on Cage's personal and professional development ."--Times Literary Supplement

"This book beautifully fulfills the purpose of the new American Composers series, addressing both general readers and specialists, and serving as a concise yet thoroughly researched and authoritative introduction to the composer's life and works. It will also prove highly useful for instructors who want a brief, clearly written introduction to Cage. As usual, Nicholls's writing is lively and interesting, the organization is clear, and the scholarship up to date. Nicholls has aptly succeeded in pulling together the voluminous scholarship on Cage while at the same time adding his own perceptive insights on the composer's music and philosophy."--Leta E. Miller, coauthor of Lou Harrison

David Nicholls is a professor of music at the University of Southampton, author of American Experimental Music, 1890-1940, and editor of The Cambridge Companion to John Cage.

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