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cageJohn Cage’s Official Website is remarkable, managing to distil Cage’s artistic vision into a digestible whole, without rendering it lifeless, inert or overly sentimental. Curated by the John Cage Trust, the site contains a wealth of information, including a database of Cage’s works, a calendar of events, a well-managed blog and an extensive autobiographic statement.

In addition to being a great source of Cage-related information,  johncage.org promotes his uniquely creative/insightful vision through interactive audio/visual/textual displays, live-events, and wonderfully produced mobile apps. Highlighting some of Cage’s more iconic pieces, the visitor is invited to read random excerpts from Indeterminacy, listen to selections from Empty Words, and page through reader-submitted remembrances. Folksonomy provides the visitor with a list of 6000+ friends and acquaintances of Cage and invites the audience to provide their own anecdotes. For instance:

“The last time I saw John C. was after a lecture discussion at Herbst Theater in San Francisco. He was having dinner with John Adams, who had moderated the panel, at Max’s Opera Cafe at Opera Plaza.”  ~ Larry Larson

Currently, the John Cage Trust, in connection with Bard College Conservatory of Music and Wave Farm, is presenting “Reality Radio“. “Reality Radio” is “a four-month durational project spanning February to May 2015 featuring a continuous audio surveillance feed from the Bard College Percussion Studio headed by Sō Percussion.” As I write this, I am listening to the “Reality Radio” feed. I can hear a percussionist multitasking; he is absentmindedly drumming on his chest, humming, placing cymbals onto stands and organizing sheet music. Behind this activity, I can just make out a distant marimbist, drilling the same figure over and over again.

John Cage saw the walls we construct between “ourselves and others”, “music and sound”, “time and space”, “life and death” (etc.) as essentially artificial. The John Cage Trust has created a uniquely living web presence; a space that breaks down the boundaries between content and audience.

“Open this book and all the doors wherever you find them. There is no end to life.”  ~ John Cage (1989)

The Apps:
One of my favorite aspects of the Trust’s work is the commissioning and support of two mobile apps: the John Cage Piano  & 4’33” – John CageThese apps are inspired by two of the composer’s best know compositions: 4’33” and Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano.

To coincide with a new Nurit Tilles recording of Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1946-1948), the John Cage Piano app gives performers of all ages the opportunity to manipulate Cage’s own prepared piano sounds. These performances and improvisations can be recorded and shared. Similarly, 4′ 33″ – John Cage focuses on the creation of new works in the model of Cage’s iconic 4’33”. Utilizing global positioning, users are encouraged to record 4’33” of “sound activity” (i.e. the ignored and overlooked sounds that surround us in daily life).

Along with a brief video demo of the above apps, I will be including Katherine Norman’s app: “Window“. “An interactive sound essay about listening in daily experience, made in memory of John Cage (1912-1992)”. The original version of this app was awarded the 2012 New Media Writing Prize.

In-Tablet Demo: Three John Cage Inspired Apps


By | 2017-03-21T18:32:12+00:00 April 8th, 2015|

About the Author:

Composer, Music Educator and Instructional Designer, Stephen Wilcox received a B.M. in instrumental performance (tuba) and a B.M. in music theory from West Chester University, a M.M. in Composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as a Ph.D. in Composition at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, he has been creating online music theory courses for Rutgers University and working as an instructional designer at UC Berkeley.

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Stephen Wilcox

Stephen Wilcox

Stephen Wilcox received a B.M. in instrumental performance (tuba) and a B.M. in music theory from West Chester University, a M.M. in Composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as a Ph.D. in Composition at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, he has been creating online music theory courses for Rutgers University and working as an instructional designer at UC Berkeley.

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