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MUSICAGE: CAGE MUSES on Words * Art * Music Paperback – January 15, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan; 1st edition (January 15, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819563110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819563118
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,683,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The celebrated avant-garde musician and thinker who died in 1992 is characterized by poet Joan Retallack as an American Zen master (though he had no formal Zen training); and, in the course of her three taped conversations with Cage that comprise most of the book (the last of them only days before his death), the aptness of the description becomes apparent. Cage's constant amusement, his endless curiosity, his insistence on seeing life and art always in a new way, emerge vividly. The result is in effect a study of his thought in motion as he sometimes playfully but always seriously responds to Retallack's informed and sympathetic questioning. As cellist Michael Bach joins the discussion to talk about his role in a Cage performance, a new work actually begins to unfold on the tape. The conversations at times seem to wander inconsequentially, but their impact as the record of a lively mind at work is all the greater as a result. At one point, Cage simultaneously welcomes the aleatoric nature of traffic noise while lamenting the inevitable air pollution that accompanies it. There are extensive appendixes of such things as timings and computer programs for some of Cage's works that will interest only specialists. For the most part, however, this is a highly accessible and personal introduction to a remarkable if elusive artist.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

This compilation of Cage's most recent thoughts on art, language, and aesthetics is successful in large measure because of the thoughtful and intelligent questioning by Retallack, a poet and essayist with significant training in philosophy. Over the course of five lengthy conversations from 1990 to just 12 days before Cage's death in 1992, the two friends plumb some fascinating depths that reveal the unbuttoned landscape of Cage's mind. There is some repetition in these pages and quite a bit of minutiae that will interest only the most ardent aficionados. And most readers will doubtless lose patience with reprints of some of Cage's "mesostic texts"-writing in which comprehensibility is sacrificed to chance operations to create a sort of poetry for the eye. Still, the intellectual level is quite high, and even Cage's detractors will find themselves stimulated by many of the ideas presented on these pages. Recommended for both undergraduate and graduate-level collections.
Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, Pa.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dan Mohr on January 31, 2001
Format: Paperback
Joan Retallack, a long-time friend and colleague of John Cage, has done us the favor of publishing this series of conversations between the two of them. These conversations (for they lack any conventional formality that might render them 'interviews'), which took place not long before Cage's death in 1992, run the gamut of topics. Through their amiable banter, one gets a great sense of what was going on in the oft-misunderstood artist's mind--especially as regards his fixation on chance operations and the I Ching. The talks also give ample insight into Cage's writing and visual art, practices for which he is lesser known. When not provoking thought about Cage himself, the two (and I mean both of them equally; Retallack has a meticulously rich and compelling mind, and expresses many enlightening points-of-view herself) have revealing conversations about everything from Duchamp to Joyce, Buckminster Fuller to the Koran.
Perhaps the most interesting and rare aspect of the book is the pervasive inclusion of the environmental and more mundane details of the conversations. She is careful to note the frequent occasions when Cage laughed, what he might have been cooking that day, interactions with an artist who stopped by to fix a bookshelf as a favor to Cage and to Merce Cunningham. Especially valuable is the penultimate conversation, when we are made privy to the beginning of Cage's composition process, as he begins to write a new piece on the spot with cellist Michael Bach. These insights into Cage's daily domestic life are perhaps the most revealing aspects of the book into his personality and philosophies.
For those familiar with Cage, this is a must-read. If you are skeptical or confused about his work, these talks will clarify a lot for you. If you have yet to be exposed to Cage, I recommend this book highly as an accurate and exhaustive portrait.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
I know nothing about music, but I loved this book! Cage's conversations brim with humor, wisdom, and amazing insights into every subject under the sun. It's an enormous pleasure to spend a few hours "in his company" by reading this book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By cvnbs on August 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Joan Retallack is immensely gifted. If you're familiar with John Cage, you'll like this book. If you're not too familiar with John Cage, well, I have someone I'd like you to meet.
This is entertaining, compelling, thought-provoking stuff. I can think of few other people who are so mindful of WORD USAGE, or in this case, I guess, WORD "USCAGE." Many insights in this book. I recommend it highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Semih on February 25, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In addition to offering a lengthy view of Cage as is, through a series of completely unpretentious and joy-to-read interviews, the short introduction by Ms. Retallack is a thoughtful, sophisticated, comprehensive, and accurate description of John Cage's thoughts and practices.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. Abadia on January 5, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are familiar with Cage's art, you will love this account of Cages views on art and life. Joan Retallack's compilation of interviews and thoughts are precious and informative, to those of us who are fond of Cage's work and thinking. Great writing. If you are not familiar with John Cage, where have you been?... Well, it is not late to start. Excellent book.
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