While much of Cage's work remains controversial, his influence on countless composers, artists, and writers is undeniable. After Cage introduced chance, Boulez, Stockhausen, and Xenakis remained critical, yet all adopted chance procedures in some of their works (although in a much more restricted manner); and Stockhausen's piano writing in his later Klavierstücke was influenced by Cage's Music of Changes and David Tudor. Other composers who adopted chance procedures in their works included Witold Lutosławski, Mauricio Kagel, and many others. Music in which some of the composition and/or performance is left to chance was labelled aleatoric music—a term popularized by Pierre Boulez.
Cage's rhythmic structure experiments and his interest in sound influenced an even greater number of composers, starting at first with his close American associates Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff (and other American composers, such as La Monte Young), and then spreading to Europe. For example, almost all composers of the English experimental school acknowledge his influence: Michael Parsons, Christopher Hobbs, John White, Gavin Bryars, who studied under Cage briefly, and even Howard Skempton, a composer seemingly very different from Cage, and one whose work has been described as "the emancipation of consonance." Cage's influence is also evident in the Far East: one of Japan's most prominent classical composers of the 20th century, Tōru Takemitsu, was influenced by his music.
Cage's influence was also acknowledged by rock bands, such as Sonic Youth (who performed some of the Number Pieces) and Stereolab (who named a song after Cage), and various noise music artists and bands: indeed, one writer traced the origin of noise music to 4′33″. The development of electronic music was also influenced by Cage: in the mid-1970s Brian Eno's label Obscure Records released works by Cage. Prepared piano, which Cage popularized, is featured heavily on Aphex Twin's 2001 album Drukqs. Cage's work as musicologist helped popularize Erik Satie's music (some of which Cage was the first to discover the scores of, in circa 1950), and his friendship with Abstract expressionist artists such as Robert Rauschenberg helped introduce his ideas into visual art.
"This mid-20th-C musical trend of wholesale abandoning of Western musical traditions created music people didn't like, drove away much of the audience for western classical music, and caused the genre to stagnate and be less of a vibrant, growing musical tradition than it had been for hundreds of years. This was not a good thing.
"The alternative at the time was popular music, but that was simplistic and formulaic and in it's own creative dead end.
"The came the Beatles and they reminded people just how much creativity, freshness, and challenging music that people actually liked and would listen to could be made from solidly within the Western musical tradition."
By the early 1930s, America’s new cultural industries were well on the way to transforming the way citizens engaged culture, thereby reconfiguring our definition of participation in art and culture…as piano sales began to decline, the boom in records and radio actually accelerated. In 1919, 2.2 million phonographs were sold; even more remarkably, four million radios were sold in 1929, just before the Great Crash. The radio, or the radio-phonograph, often dressed up in handsome cabinetry, emerged as the new cultural center of American homes; it was the introduction of our electronic hearth.
Adams: Well, John Cage was an absolute original. He had a huge effect on me as a student partly because he was a renegade and a maverick. He questioned everything. That was like a tonic for me, because I was going to leave the East Coast and live with the Beatniks in San Francisco. Cage was an American contrarian like Thoreau or an abolitionist. In the end, I had to leave his aesthetic behind because I realized that Cage had no interest in music as a cultural form. He was interested in sound and in creating works that organized sound in certain ways. But he had no interest in culture as an ongoing organism. Cage couldn’t listen to jazz. He couldn’t listen to Mahler. His ear didn’t function that way or if it did he purposely pushed it out, because he didn’t want to have anything to do with that.
In a sense, I love some of his early pieces. His sonatas and interludes are beautiful pieces. I really love the crazy 60s assemblages, but he had no link to the past like Schoenberg did to Mahler and Wagner.
From Rhode Island I went on to Cambridge and in the anechoic chamber at Harvard University heard that silence was not the absence of sound but was the unintended operation of my nervous system and the circulation of my blood. It was this experience and the white paintings of Rauschenberg that led me to compose 4'33", which I had described in a lecture at Vassar College some years before when I was in the flush of my studies with Suzuki (A Composer's Confessions, 1948), my silent piece.
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