Thursday, December 27, 2012

John Cage: Guiding Spirit of American Modern Art?

In 1951, musical composer and overall art theorist John Cage (shown above) stepped into an anechoic chamber at Harvard University. Touted as the quietest place on Earth, the anechoic chamber offered the chance for Cage finally to experience the silence he had been pursuing in his music. But rather than complete silence, Cage found himself bombarded with sounds he later learned were the workings of his own nervous system and blood circulation. Total silence, it seemed, existed nowhere. If sound was everywhere, then music was everywhere—and everything was music. That cognitive jump, combined with Cage’s explorations into Zen Buddhism, helped him spread his ideas to other forms of art, particularly the visual arts. That story and many others appear in Kay Larson’s beautifully written book, Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists. But did Cage really break new ground, or did he simply repeat what Marcel Duchamp and his readymades said decades before? That question weighs heavily on both Larson’s book and Cage’s legacy. Please come over to Picture This at Big Think to read more of "John Cage: Guiding Spirit of American Modern Art?"

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