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John Cage Paperback – Jun 15 2012


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Amazon.com: 2 reviews
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
A superb book on Cage, a model of critical thought Aug. 5 2012
By George Grella - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This new, slim, beautifully thought and written book on John Cage is the first book anyone interested in Cage's life and work should turn to. It's also a model for what a 'critical life' should be.

Haskins explains in his introduction that he finds the experience of playing Cage's music beautiful, and then goes on to elucidate the path to and means of that beautify in Cage's career. He loves Cage, and out of that love is willing to think critically about the man and the composer, an essential feature. There was no one like Cage, and he was one of the most important artists in the history of civilization, but that does not mean that every though he had was good, nor that every piece he made was successful, that made sense even on his own terms, and Haskins is clear about this.

Haskins depth of knowledge is impressive, but the book is not weighty. He expresses important and difficult concepts clearly and ties them in directly to Cage's actual practice and experience. The biographical details are cogent but brief, and Haskins emphasizes the flow and change of Cage's musical output. He doesn't fetishize "4',33"" and the "Sonatas and Interludes," but identifies the truly fertile periods of Cage's work, and makes lucid critical judgements on what pieces stand in the first rank of achievement. Throughout, he has great intellectual and emotional affection for Cage, but it never clouds his thinking or his writing. The best single book on Cage that has been published.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Best Dec 25 2012
By Louie Goldstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the best Cage biography for the general reader who wants a concise introduction to the full spectrum of Cage's thoughts and accomplishments. There is no need for the reader to be able to read music in order to follow the discussions about music, no need to be an accomplished reader of poetry in order to understand the discussions of poetry, and ditto for the references to visual art, various East Asian philosophies, and all the other topics that need to be encompassed in a thorough introduction to this amazing man.

I used Haskins' biography as a text in a college course on John Cage. In the final class evaluations, 80% of the students gave this book the highest possible rating for "the textbook made a valuable contribution." The remainder of the responses were at the second highest level. And yet this book is also an interesting read for someone well-versed in Cage scholarship, for Haskins spices his concoction with his own opinions (always well-defined as opinions). Cage is fascinating simply in terms of his own biography, but Haskins actually likes the music, the poetry, and the art that he is dealing with, and is a compelling advocate for the work itself.

Just a brief mention of the "one star" review here. It is mostly about another matter entirely, having nothing to do with the Haskins biography. It also criticizes Haskins for a book he has not yet written.


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