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Silence: Lectures and Writings [Paperback]

John Cage
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 10 2000
John Cage is the outstanding composer of avant-garde music today. The Saturday Review said of him: “Cage possesses one of the rarest qualities of the true creator- that of an original mind- and whether that originality pleases, irritates, amuses or outrages is irrelevant.” “He refuses to sermonize or pontificate. What John Cage offers is more refreshing, more spirited, much more fun-a kind of carefree skinny-dipping in the infinite. It’s what’s happening now.” –The American Record Guide

“There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot. Sounds occur whether intended or not; the psychological turning in direction of those not intended seems at first to be a giving up of everything that belongs to humanity. But one must see that humanity and nature, not separate, are in this world together, that nothing was lost when everything was given away.”

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Review

"As the unchallenged father figure of American experimental music, Mr. Cage wields an influence that extends far beyond sound alone....Indeed, the entire American avant-garde would be unthinkable without Mr. Cage's music, writings, and genially patriarchical personality."-John Rockwell, The New York Times

"Of all Cage's books, it is perhaps the first, Silence, which has had the broadest impact. Even now, artists of all sorts continue to respond to its Zen principles, its chance procedures, and its revolutionary ideas about sound, silence, form, and time"-Dance Chronicle

"SILENCE starts with the finest dedications of modern times-'To Whom It May Concern'-and past that you embark on one of the most entertaining and rewarding intellectual voyages that contemporary literature affords."-Alfred Frankenstein, San Francisco Chronicle

"One of the most entertaining and rewarding intellectual voyages that contemporary literature affords."-San Francisco Chronicle

From the Publisher

7 x 8 1/4 trim. LC 61-14238

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book is slightly overrated, actually June 13 2001
Format:Paperback
There is no denying the importance of John Cage as a composer as well as a writer. But even though this book is a necessary provocation for anyone who thinks they know what music is and should be, he is not a philosopher, and his ideas are often contradictory, naive and even romantic.
Romantic? Yes, I would say that for instance his idea of "sounds in themselves" and "nature" are romantic. Can we really eliminate all cultural impact and distortion just by refusing intention? I think not. Sounds are always inflected by history.
Still, I would not want a world without the challenge of his extreme stance.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential May 8 2002
Format:Paperback
Not just for musicians, but for anybody who is interested in music or philosophy. Cage's ideas presented in the work are fascinating in and of themselves, but even the manner in which he physically notates his thoughts on paper is amazing to see.
There's a common argument that his ideas (and this book) are overrated. I find this difficult to digest, especially when one considers the enormous impact Cage's writings and compositions have had on countless composers (basically anyone composing after 1950 has most likely taken a thing or two from the ideas in this book).
Sometimes he can be a little tough to follow in the book, as properly constructed sentences are not high up on Cage's list of priorities. However, this book has so much to offer that it is worth wading through the occasional slow spot.
So give it a whirl. Even if you don't like Cage's music, reading this book will give you insights into what he did that may change your mind or at least instill a newfound respect. At its best, this is inspiration of the highest sort.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quintessential Cage Aug. 16 2001
Format:Paperback
I keep reading it year after year and I keep finding sections of it I've never seen before. magic. A the same time, I read the same part overs and over again years later and they just get better.
It's just a remarkable text.
You have to get it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing Has Been The Same May 19 2000
Format:Paperback
It's always a strange sensation for me to go into a record store, or even see what's available here, and find so many John Cage recordings in print. As the most essential and avant-garde composer of the century, that's gratifying to me [a composer] but also unnerving that anyone so experimental and uncompromising in the arts would enjoy such popularity.
This book goes a long way towards explaining that. And in many ways, this book stands apart from his music, and can be enjoyed without ever hearing or knowing of Cage's music pieces. Because the music was almost by accident - Schoenberg told Cage that he was an inventor, not a composer, and this book demonstrates that, and goes further to show Cage was a philosopher. Music just happened to be the medium where he best expressed his philosophy, but it could have been painting or film, depending on his path. The book defines a way of living and thinking and seeing, and of course hearing, the world. That's what it's about. And it's beautiful and gentle quality capture the essence of Cage, a true quiet revolutionary. His revolution was profound, and best expressed in his piano piece 4'33", where the pianist does not make a sound at the instrument. The revolution of that event was the most profound and destabilizing in the history of music, and yet it was entirely silent. Such is the power of Cage's ideas that he has no need to really 'lecture' about them, he merely presents them and let's their own strength do the rest.
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