By Ted AYALA
Genius. Fraud. Visionary. Charlatan. John Cage’s music and philosophy has a quality that very few composers possess: the ability to inspire – even decades after his death – fiery debate and profound contemplation from his audience. Perhaps no other composer of the latter half of the 20th Century so fundamentally altered the language of music; so radically altered what we as listeners define as “music.”
A Los Angeles native, Cage is powerfully relevant now more than ever. With multiculturalism in the ascendant today, Cage’s fusion of Buddhist philosophy, evocation of Javanese gamelan, Satiean irreverence, abstract painting, typically American determination and playfulness, and the plain sound of everyday life, along with numerous other musical and philosophical strands, speaks boldly to a world where cultural thought has been decentralized and new paths are eagerly sought. His music is at once prescient and a reflection of the melding of cultures witnessed in the United States today. Perhaps even the voice of the global metropolis his hometown has since become.
Next year marks the centennial of John Cage’s birth, but local new music partisans, the Grammy Award winning Southwest Chamber Music (SCM), are beginning the festivities a year early with a retrospective of Cage’s pioneering oeuvre in a two year series entitled Cage 2012. With the four concerts shared between two venues (Los Angeles’ Colburn School and Pasadena’s Armory of the Arts) SCM will be presenting four concerts between March 26 and April 10 that survey the entirety of his career – from youth to his late period. From the Debussyan early works for prepared piano (Cage’s own invention where the piano strings were fitted with various objects that altered the instrument’s sound) to the spare yet child-like exuberance of his final works, Cage blazed a musical path that completely altered the future of music.
Next week will be a continuation of the man and his work and more information on the upcoming events of the Southwest Chamber Music.