ARB Celebrates the John Cage Centennial Festival

By Lauren Fink

John Cage conductingAfter approximately 18 hours of straight playing on Monday, Erik Satie’s Vexations kicked off CCM’s John Cage Centennial Festival. The Archives and Rare Books Library would like to contribute to the festivities by sharing images and information about its collections of and related to John Cage.

Since John Cage was a composer-in-residence at CCM during the 1966-67 academic year, we have writings and images of him in our University Archives. Of special note are the Van Meter Ames Papers – which document the friendship between Cage and UC philosophy professor Ames (the pair most likely bonded over their shared passion for Zen Buddhism) – and the biography files of both Cage and Ames.

Cage in FranceThe images in this blog are all contained in the John Cage bio file. All three pictures date from 1966, Cage’s year at UC, though pictures from other years are also viewable in ARB. Above is a picture of Cage conducting during his residency at CCM. Below is Cage’s headshot taken by UC’s official photographer. To the right is a picture of Cage, Gordon Mumma, and the Merce Cunningham Dance Co. on tour in St. Paul de Vence, France.

John Cage is one of the most notable composers of the last century and is Headshot of John Cageperhaps best known for his treating of all sounds equally, rather than operating within the framework of Western tonal hierarchies or rows. Cage sought a music that expressed the nature of existence and the liberation of all sounds, typically incorporating what were traditionally considered non-musical instruments and “noise.” He wanted to remove his ego from his composition; in doing this, he often composed using chance operations rather than his own likes and dislikes. If interested in Cage’s music, please consider attending CCM’s Centennial Festival this evening, November 7, at 8pm.  The Percussion Group Cincinnati – trio in residence at CCM – will present a 50-year retrospective concert of Cage’s work.   Friday, November 9,  the festival continues with a guest lecture in the afternoon, as well as a performance by both students and faculty in the evening, featuring HPSCHRD, Ryoanji, and Cage’s radio drama The City Wears a Slouch Hat. On Thursday, November 29, the Percussion Group Cincinnati will appear with the Philharmonia Orchestra, playing Cage’s Renga with Music for Three.

Though the Cage festival will come to a riotous close on December 8 at Rohs Street Café with a music circus organized by Allen Otte’s John Cage seminar class, the Archives and Rare Books Library will not. So, if the celebrations leave you with a desire to learn more about this transformative 20th century figure, please schedule an appointment to view our holdings by calling (513)-556-1959 or emailing

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