John Cage - 100 Years

John Cage Ė 100 Years

Hyo-shin Na Ė written for the Korea Times Ė 9/28/2012

The composer Franz Schubert (1797-1828) owned, when he died, 3 jackets, 3 coats, 10 pairs of trousers, 9 half-coats, 1 hat, 5 pairs of shoes, 4 shirts, 9 handkerchiefs, 13 pairs of socks, a bedsheet, 2 comforters, a mattress, a pillow, a blanket and a few books. He didnít even own a piano! Beyond a close circle of friends, who revered him and his music, he was mostly unknown, lost in the crowd. Of course, today, everyone knows Schubertís music.

John Cage, the American composer born in 1912, was a gregarious, openly generous man who loved to talk about his ideas and his latest projects. He was prolific, his output is astoundingly wide-ranging and various and his worldwide travels occupied much of the last decades of his life. The Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya was born a few years after Cage (1919) and couldnít have lived more differently than he did, disliking talk about her music so much that she frequently declined to do interviews, and writing only a modest number of pieces that all share a similar starkness and intensity. This year, being the centennial of Cageís birth, is filled with countless concerts and festivals of Cageís music (including a two-concert celebration of Cageís art planned by myself and my husband to take place in California in October). Letís hope there will be many comparable events in honor of Ustvolskaya in 2019Ö

Iím grateful to Cage and Ustvolskaya for helping me realize that writing music is not necessarily self-expression, nor is the composerís job primarily to manipulate the listenerís emotions. And Iím also thankful that they wrote music I can listen to during these beautiful autumn daysÖ