John Cage and nonrepresentational spaces of music

Authors: Robert Kruse*, West Liberty University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Social Geography, Environmental Perception
Keywords: music, nonrepresentational theory, John Cage, art
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 49
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


John Cage's influence as a composer is exemplified by the ways he challenged the spatial norms of music composition and performance. His most famous work, 4'33 (1952), brought the musicality of everyday soundscapes into the concert hall and altered the geographies of serious music in the 20th century. This paper argues that, in addition to being a composer, John Cage was a geographer -- one whose work reconceptualized the boundaries between "music" and "life," and composers, performers and their audiences. Two primary questions are addressed in this paper. Is John Cage's work nonrepresentational? If so, in what ways can it be understood within the context of nonrepresentational theory (NRT) that appeared decades after his work was first performed? In its utilization of nonintentionality and indeterminacy, Cage's music is shown to be nonrepresentational in its reliance upon practice, affect, assemblages and the sounds of everyday life. The conclusion is that Cage's work is inherently geographical in its focus upon material landscapes, its challenges to spatial norms and its integration of broad philosophical influences that informed John Cage's conceptualizations of space.

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