John Cage

“In the nature of the use of chance operations is the belief that all answers answer all questions.”

n 1952, David Tudor sat down in front of a piano for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and did nothing. The piece 4’33” written by John Cage, is possibly the most famous and important piece in twentieth century avant-garde. 4’33” was a distillation of years of working with found sound, noise, and alternative instruments. In one short piece, Cage broke from the history of classical composition and proposed that the primary act of musical performance was not making music, but listening.

Born in Los Angeles in 1912, Cage studied for a short time at Pamona College, and later at UCLA with classical composer Arthur Schoenberg. There he realized that the music he wanted to make was radically different from the music of his time. “I certainly had no feeling for harmony, and Schoenberg thought that that would make it impossible for me to write music. He said ‘You’ll come to a wall you won’t be able to get through.’ So I said, ‘I’ll beat my head against that wall.’” But it wasn’t long before Cage found that there were others equally interested in making art in ways that broke from the rigid forms of the past. Two of the most important of Cage’s early collaborators were the dancer Merce Cunningham and the painter Robert Rauschenberg.

Together with Cunningham and Rauschenberg at Black Mountain College, Cage began to create sound for performances and to investigate the ways music composed through chance procedures could become something beautiful. Many of Cage’s ideas about what music could be were inspired by Marcel Duchamp, who revolutionized twentieth-century art by presenting everyday, unadulterated objects in museum settings as finished works of art, which were called “found art,” or ready-mades by later scholars. Like Duchamp, Cage found music around him and did not necessarily rely on expressing something from within.

American Masters: John Cage


Rhizome Entanglement. Image by Jenn Karson. A decaying cluster of caterpillar cocoons, skins, silk and debris. The caterpillars defoliated nearby trees before cocooning and then swarmed the trunks of trees as moths before dying, many turning to dust on the ground. This complex network of materials, time, space and transforming bodies is a rhizome in the philosophical sense. 

A rhizome has no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between thing, interbeing, intermezzo…The middle is by no means an average; on the contrary, it is where things pick up speed. Between things does not designate a localizable relation direction, a transversal movement that sweeps on and the other away, a stream without beginning or end that undermines its banks and picks up speed in the middle.

The rhizome itself assume very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulb and tubers. When rats swarm over each other.

The rhizome is altogether different, a map and not a tracing. Make a map, not a tracing. The orchid does not reproduce the tracing of the wasp, it forms a map with the wasp, in a rhizome. What distinguishes the map from the tracing is that it is entirely oriented toward an experimentation in contact with the real.

A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

In Botany:

An elongated, usually horizontal, subterranean stem which sends out roots and leafy shoots at intervals along its length.

-Oxford English Dictionary

Alpinia purpurata. Image by Filo gèn’. This image illustrates the botanic meaning of Rhizome. Deleuze and Guattari create a new philosophical definition in A Thousand Plateaus