New biography of controversial American composer published

book cover for John Cage biography

Associate Professor of Music Rob Haskins has just published a new biography about American composer John Cage, one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde.

Cage may be best known for his 1952 piece, 4’33”, that calls for musicians on a stage NOT playing. Instead of hearing a traditional musical piece, the audience hears the sounds of coughing or rustling programs, the hum of central heating or the traffic outside the music hall. Cage’s work challenges traditional definitions of what music is and what a performance consists of. In a 1957 lecture, Cage described music as “…simply a way of waking up to the very life we’re living.”

From the publisher, Reaktion Books:

“…Haskins considers John Cage’s life, art, ideas and work, evaluating the twin pillars of Cage’s creative output and the ideas that lie behind it. Demystifying the artist’s use of chance, and his relationship to Zen Buddhism, the book explores Cage’s belief that everyday life and art are one and the same. John Cage will appeal to musicians and artists, as well as general readers interested in the art, music and ideas of the twentieth century.”

Haskins has studied and performed John Cage’s music for almost twenty years. He is the author of Anarchic Societies of Sounds: The Number Pieces of John Cage (2009).

Publishers’s website.

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