John Cage

John Cage

The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs
Roaratorio
Marcel Duchamp, James Joyce, Erik Satie: An Alphabet.
Nowth Upon Nacht


John Cage (1912-1992)
John Cage was an American composer who forever changed the face of modern music. A musical revolutionary, Cage believed, among other things, that chance played just as an important role in our life as design, and that music was to be found everywhere -- it was all in the ear of the beholder. His music was iconoclastic, often difficult, always surprising, and probed the limits of human imagination and preconceptions.

"The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs" -- (1942) A song adapted from the "Isobel" passage from Finnegans Wake.

Roaratorio -- (1979) This large and chaotic work incorporates phrases from Finnegans Wake into a tapestry of noise, voice, song, and Irish traditional music.

Writing for the Second Time Through Finnegans Wake -- (1979) The "libretto" of the above work, Roaratorio. Spoken by John Cage.

Marcel Duchamp, James Joyce, Eric Satie: An Alphabet -- (1982) A radio play featuring James Joyce as a character.

"Nowth Upon Nacht" -- (1984) A song with lyics directly adapted from Finnegans Wake.

Links/CDs/Sound Samples

Marjorie Perloff is a postmodern scholar and has written several wonderful works about postmodernism and John Cage; particularly about his use of Joyce and Finnegans Wake. Her Homepage contains many fine articles, including two on John Cage: "The Music of Verbal Space: John Cage's What You Say," and "John Cage's Dublin, Lyn Hejinian's Leningrad: Poetic Cities as Cyberspaces."

mode records: The indomitable mode records is in the process of releasing the entire Cage oeuvre. This is one of my favorite modern music labels, and I recommend visiting their site.

To explore more of John Cage's fascinating world, check out Malcolm Humes' John Cage Page, which has a very impressive list of John Cage links.

There is an online Cage discussion list, called SILENCE.

You can order a font set based on John Cage's handwriting from this page.

Postmodern Genres is a book with a large chapter on John Cage's Roaratorio, written by Marjorie Perloff. It may be ordered online from Amazon.com here:

Postmodern Genres
Edited by Marjorie Perloff.

James Joyce and Avant-Garde Music
Klein, Scott W.
An excellent discussion of Joycean influences on Cage, Boulez, Berio, and others. Online at Ireland’s Contemporary Music Centre.

--Allen B. Ruch
13 October 2004
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