Homages to John Cage

John Cage inspired many of the early Fluxus artists, particularly those who studied with him at the New School for Social Research in New York in the late 1950s. These artists included George Brecht, Dick Higgins and Jackson Mac Low, who all became central to the development of new performative art forms and Fluxus in the 1960s (Owen Smith).

John Cage was born on 5 September 1912. The following performances took place in 2012, the centenary of his birth. Many of the works refer to 4′ 33″, the silent piece, recognised as being John Cage's most famous creation.

[4'33" refers to a duration of 4 minutes and 33 seconds]

Performance of John Cage 4'33" (Summer Silence #1)
A 'summer meditation'... or a 'garden concert'...with a grass trimmer, Australian-style, looking through the flywire.
Performance of John Cage 4'33" (Summer Silence #2)
A 'summer meditation'... or a 'garden concert'...with a lawnmower, Australian-style, looking through the flywire.
The year 2012 was also the year when a piano was (temporarily) moved to under the stairs at the local art school. The keyboard is inaccessible thereby rendering it, essentially, a silenced, caged piano. It has provided ample opportunity for the following John Cage homages.
John Cage 4'33" Performed by a Silenced/Caged Piano


Preparing for Performance (Prelude to Conversation with a Silent Piano)

Excerpt from Conversation with a Silent Piano


Prepared for Silence
John Cage is known for his works for 'prepared pianos' (prepared by placing various objects on or between the strings. His score 4'33" is also known as 'Silence'.

So I asked myself, how do you prepare for silence...?
Vegetal Score for Piano (after John Cage)
The words in the following video refer to the instructions in a music score which are usually in Italian (in this case, the translation is 'singing with silence and vegetation'). The plant which sits on top of my old (and seldom played) Australian Beale piano appears to be the same as (or similar to) the one in John Cage's kitchen (see final scene of John Cage: 27 Sounds Manufactured in a Kitchen).


Homage to John Cage #2
It is not generally known that John Cage was also a keen mycologist. The intention of the following work is to celebrate his interest in mushrooms. Like many Fluxus works, it is playful both conceptually and in performance. There are plays on the word 'prepare', on the fact the piano had been unplayed for some time (hence had grown mushrooms and the keys stick) and the impromptu appearance of an Australian Staghound during the performance became the coda (Cage mentions deer in the extract below). It is a performance of a score that I wrote:
Homage to John Cage #2:
Prepare a piano with mushrooms.
Play only the mushrooms.
Coda (optional):
"I have spent many pleasant hours in the woods conducting performances of my silent piece...At one performance, I passed the first movement by attempting the identification of a mushroom....The second movement was extremely dramatic, beginning with the sounds of a buck and a doe leaping up to within ten feet of my rocky podium."
Cage, John 1961, Silence, Wesleyan University Press, p. 276.

'C' 'A' 'G' 'E' - Improvisation for Prepared Piano
A simple birthday homage to John Cage on the occasion of 100 years since his birth, recorded on 5 September 1912. The intent behind John Cage's preparing pianos was to change the sound to more percussive sounds. I also found, on this my first attempt at preparing a piano, that some of the keys played the next-door note...


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