As is generally known, John Cage is considered one of the most influential “avant garde” composers of the twentieth century. Cage’s experimental approach incorporates the specific visions of noise, silence and music. The aforesaid visions have driven the composer to apply the methods of chance and experiment by way of using the contradictory expressions in conjunction (Recker 5). In the context of chance, it should be purported that the biggest part of the composer’s later works are created with the help of “chance operations” (Perloff and Junkerman 2). According to some researchers, John Cage makes attempts to combine both traditional and the radical aspects of his aesthetics and compositional style (Bernstein and Hatch 40). Hence, a mental note should be made that, in Cage’s opinion, his music accentuates on “poethics” which may be taken into consideration as “a curiously American phenomenon” (Perloff and Junkerman 8). Moreover, the researchers are disposed to think that Cage’s American “poethics” embraces such undeniable components as Zen Buddhism, iconoclasm vis-à-vis traditional methods of composing music, the artist’s dedication to the “Fluxus” movement, his collaboration with Merce Cunningham etc. Nevertheless, the aforementioned evidence is insufficient to affirm that John Cage’s music is genuinely nationalistic. In contrast to nationalist aesthetics in European states, John Cage’s pieces of music both emphasize the search of new sonorities and implement the new conceptual motifs of Zen Buddhism philosophy which is not originally American. In addition, the diligent analysis of Cage’s works assists the progress of comprehending the anarchism and innovative compositional processes including the technique of nested proportions in particular. In the context of anarchism, it should be ascertained that the composer’s music lacks the traditional order and expectedness. The underlying tone of anarchism eliminates any possibility to title Cage’s music as exclusively nationalistic. Also, it seems reasonable to admit that John Cage’s creative work has become very popular in Europe which speaks of its international essence. Moreover, notwithstanding their unusual complexity, Cage’s pieces of music either smooth out or avoid the social motif making it less detectable and unsubstantiated. Thus, it may be apparent to sum up that the composer’s pieces of music are not originally nationalistic.
Apart from the above, it should be asserted that the historical background has greatly affected John Cage’s style of composing. Being a young painter John Cage has developed a creative susceptibility and understanding of visual art. The composer has been forced to give up painting in order to focus on music instead. The analysis of his “plexigrams” – the silk screen printings on Plexiglas panels – elucidates that his visual art has been driven by “chance operations” as well (Nicholls 111). Similarly, it may be appropriate to notice that Cage’s outlook has also been widened due to his interest in literature. According to David Nicholls, John Cage has familiarized himself with the canons of Buddhism and Taoism (Nicholls 52). Moreover, the composer has exerted himself studying the writings of Kwang-tse as well as the contemporary pieces of literature such as “Haiku” and “Zen in English Literature” by Blyth (Nicholls 52). In this connection, it should be emphasized that the religion and philosophy of Zen Buddhism has played a truly crucial role in Cage’s nurturing. In view of the above, it should be claimed that John Cage has a number of teachers. Jose Pijoan should be apprehended as the composer’s first teacher from PomonaCollege who has helped him to find the job while staying in France. Therefore, Cage’s aesthetic aspirations have been initially developed in France (Nicholls 21). However, the first teacher responsible for his professional development has been Richard Buhlig. According to Nicholls, Cage’s education with Buhlig, Weiss and Schoenberg has augmented his understanding of then-current “modernist” compositional methods (Nicholls 24). Other Cage’s teachers include Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg. The composer has met Cowell through Richard Buhlig, his teacher in Bauhaus. Therefore, Henry Cowell has presumably cultivated in Cage the desire for radical innovations in music.
After everything has been given due consideration, an example of John Cage’s creativity needs to be examined. The musical composition “Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard” (1950) clearly demonstrates the composer’s style of “avant garde” (Cage http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=i5ssRFrgF2k). The aforesaid piece of music has been written specifically for such instruments as violin and keyboard which may be easily perceived during the listening. “Six Melodies for Violin and Keyboard” is a representative of the composer’s personal style containing melodic lines without accompaniment. In the above-mentioned piece of music Cage emphasizes the use of single tones and incorporation of intervals created with the help of one or both of the instruments. The music seems to be very simple resembling the atmosphere of other creations such as “String Quartet in four parts”. The rhythmic structure should be outlined as 3½, 3½, 4, 4, 3, 4. As far as the composition’s theme is concerned, it is possible to assume that the obvious motifs of Zen-Buddhism, iconoclasm and “Fluxus” characterize the analyzed piece of music as American.
The examined tune is very melodic and pleasing. I appreciate a calm harmonic sounding of a violin and the supplementary role of a keyboard. I indulge in listening to the flowing tunes which manifest some Eastern motifs. The composition is very relaxing and less complicated than the other ones. To my way of thinking, it possesses more logic and comprehensiveness than other pieces of Cage’s music. in addition, it is neither anarchic nor unpredictable. All six melodies are reciprocal and interconnected.
In the final analysis, it should be generalized that John Cage has contributed to American new music. His music embodies philosophical tenets of Zen-Buddhism and Taoism. Moreover, the composer’s creative work has enriched the contemporary music and dance. In his music Cage has managed to apply the principles of choice and experiment making the music less standard and predictable. It is possible to arrive at a conclusion that John Cage has genuinely helped to propel American music forward extending its borders and eliminating the limitations.