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The Selected Letters of John Cage
John Cage; Laura Kuhn, ed.

2016 • 674 pp. 9 illus. 6 1/8 x 9 1/4"
Literary Collections / Composer/Musician

$40.00 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-7591-3

$31.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7592-0

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

Letters of an avant-garde icon available to the public for the first time

This selection of over five hundred letters gives us the life of John Cage with all the intelligence, wit, and inventiveness that made him such an important and groundbreaking composer and performer. The missives range from lengthy reports of his early trips to Europe in the 1930s through his years with the dancer Merce Cunningham, and shed new light on his growing eminence as an iconic performance artist of the American avant-garde. Cage’s joie de vivre resounds in these letters—fully annotated throughout—in every phase of his career, and includes correspondence with Peter Yates, David Tudor, and Pierre Boulez, among others. Above all, they reveal his passionate interest in people, ideas, and the arts. The voice is one we recognize from his writings: singular, profound, irreverent, and funny. Not only will readers take pleasure in Cage’s correspondence with and commentary about the people and events of a momentous and transformative time in the arts, they will also share in his meditations on the very nature of art. A deep pleasure to read, this volume presents an extraordinary portrait of a complex, brilliant man who challenged and changed the artistic currents of the twentieth century.

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Reviews / Endorsements

“The publication of a great artist’s letters is always an important event, but rarely is such a volume as thrilling to read as is The Selected Letters of John Cage, which takes us from the 1930s, when Cage was an eighteen-year-old college dropout traveling in Europe and Algeria, to his robbery at knifepoint shortly before his sudden death in 1992. In his published writings and even interviews, John Cage was so naturally reticent, so unfailingly polite and formal, that the letters, wonderfully informal and often surprisingly frank and even severe, come as a real surprise. Anyone interested in the development of the twentieth-century American avant-garde will want to read Cage’s week-by-week reaction to its twists and turns. His life-in-letters emerges as a heroic tale of struggle and triumphant survival.”—Marjorie Perloff

“Cage’s letters are invaluable in that they show us the day-to-day life of a composer at work: organizing concerts, raising funds, working with performers, worrying about getting the next piece done. Essential reading for anyone interested in Cage’s music.”—James Pritchett

JOHN CAGE (1912–1992) was an American composer whose inventive compositions and unorthodox ideas profoundly influenced twentieth-century music. He was an early proponent of aleatoric music (music where some elements are left to chance), used instruments in nonstandard ways, and was an electronic music pioneer. LAURA KUHN is the John Cage Professor of Performance Art at Bard College and director of the John Cage Trust.

Click here for author's website.

Publication of this book is funded by the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

Wed, 17 May 2017 13:10:31 -0500