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.
This is the only book of Cage's I have read, but I found it not only cleared up any questions I had about the nature and intention of his work, but also gave me a much greater appreciation of what a true pioneer he was, both as an artist and philosopher. His humor and passion for life and art are in clear evidence throughout the book; each article or lecture reveals a new facet, a new layer of his boundless creativity and powerful stand for all art. Even though parts of the book may get fairly technical, much of what he says about music applies to life in general and to the goal of pursuing both to their fullest. A must-have for any serious musician or lover of art and life.
Having red an increasingly litterature of and about John Cage, Silence is the one I return to. It reveals his ways and his means, as by actually composing the lectures and writings the same way he composed his music. Even if the content often serves only to fill the composition, it is funny and it is full of wisdom. And beautiful. Add up the Indeterminacy recording from Smithsonian Folkways, and you have the best of his writings.
'I have nothing to say and I am saying it', wrote John Cage in his Lecture On Nothing, included in Silence. This collection of Cage's lectures and writings, which spans the two decades before its sixties publication, is perhaps his most important.