All Things Cage: Laura Kuhn on Cage's Use of Chance in Composition, Part 1, "Music of Changes" (1951) (Audio)

Sep 10, 2022
Hosted by Laura Kuhn, Executive Director of the John Cage Trust.

Tonight, Laura Kuhn begins a series of three programs devoted to the subject of Cage’s use of chance composition with a program that focuses on his first fully chance-determined work, Music of Changes (1951). As dedicated listeners know, John Cage was a singularly inventive American composer whose principal contribution to the history of music was his systematic establishment of the principle of indeterminacy: by adapting Zen Buddhist practices to composition and performance, Cage succeeded in bringing both authentic spiritual ideas and a liberating attitude of play to the enterprise of Western art. He developed methods of selecting the components of his pieces by chance, early on through the tossing of coins and later through the use of random number generators on the computer to simulate the coin oracle of the I Ching. Thus, Cage's mature works did not originate in psychology, motive, drama, or literature, but, rather, were just sounds, free of judgments about whether they are musical or not, free of fixed relations, free of memory and taste. His most enduring composition is the radically tacet 4'33" (1952), a work in three movements during which no sounds are intentionally produced.