One of the most celebrated and iconoclastic figures of the American musical avant-garde, John Cage has been instrumental in reshaping postwar Western music. Cage's radical innovations in compositions and theory — the application of chance and "found" sound as an integral compositional device, the creation of musical structures based on rhythm rather than tonality — were influential in altering traditional concepts of musical interpretation.
Cage's seminal compositions include Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951), a piece for twelve radios; 4'33" (1952), a "silent" work in which the sounds of the piece originate in the ambient sound of the audience; and Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1958), which features a piano solo using eighty-four different kinds at composition.
Cage was born in 1912 and died in 1992. During his lengthy career, he was active and highly productive as a composer, writer, philosopher, and visual artist. He was elected to the Institute of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1968, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1978. He received an honorary Doctorate of Performing Arts from the California Institutes of the Arts in 1986, and was also the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was a fellow of the Centers for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University; composer-in-residence at the University of California, Davis; and the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard University. Cage was the musical director for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and the author of numerous books, including Silence (1973), Empty Words (1979), Writings Through Finnegans Wake (1979) and Themes and Variations (1982).