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Silence: Lectures and Writings, 50th Anniversary Edition Hardcover – October 26, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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“As the unchallenged father figure of American experimental music, Mr. Cage wields an influence that extends far beyond sound alone. . . . Indeed, the entire American avant-garde would be unthinkable without Mr. Cage’s music, writings, and genially patriarchical personality.”—John Rockwell, The New York Times


“Of all Cage’s books, it is perhaps the first, Silence, which has had the broadest impact. Even now, artists of all sorts continue to respond to its Zen principles, its chance procedures, and its revolutionary ideas about sound, silence, form, and time.”—Dance Chronicle


"'It’s the book I’ve reread most often in my life,' writes the composer-critic Kyle Gann in his illuminating foreword to the 50th anniversary edition. … To reread Silence today is to see how complex, playful, but also deeply ironic Cage’s seemingly upbeat and casual aesthetic really was." —Marjorie Perloff, Los Angeles Review of Books


“Cage’s 1959 ‘Lecture on Nothing’…remains a touchstone for artists thinking about how to empty their work of themselves. It has just reappeared in a 50th anniversary edition of Cage’s classic first book, Silence.” —Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

From the Publisher

7 x 8 1/4 trim. LC 61-14238 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Wesleyan; 2 edition (October 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0819571768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0819571762
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By gtra1n VINE VOICE on May 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
It's always a strange sensation for me to go into a record store, or even see what's available here, and find so many John Cage recordings in print. As the most essential and avant-garde composer of the century, that's gratifying to me [a composer] but also unnerving that anyone so experimental and uncompromising in the arts would enjoy such popularity.
This book goes a long way towards explaining that. And in many ways, this book stands apart from his music, and can be enjoyed without ever hearing or knowing of Cage's music pieces. Because the music was almost by accident - Schoenberg told Cage that he was an inventor, not a composer, and this book demonstrates that, and goes further to show Cage was a philosopher. Music just happened to be the medium where he best expressed his philosophy, but it could have been painting or film, depending on his path. The book defines a way of living and thinking and seeing, and of course hearing, the world. That's what it's about. And it's beautiful and gentle quality capture the essence of Cage, a true quiet revolutionary. His revolution was profound, and best expressed in his piano piece 4'33", where the pianist does not make a sound at the instrument. The revolution of that event was the most profound and destabilizing in the history of music, and yet it was entirely silent. Such is the power of Cage's ideas that he has no need to really 'lecture' about them, he merely presents them and let's their own strength do the rest.
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Format: Paperback
This is the only book of Cage's I have read, but I found it not only cleared up any questions I had about the nature and intention of his work, but also gave me a much greater appreciation of what a true pioneer he was, both as an artist and philosopher. His humor and passion for life and art are in clear evidence throughout the book; each article or lecture reveals a new facet, a new layer of his boundless creativity and powerful stand for all art. Even though parts of the book may get fairly technical, much of what he says about music applies to life in general and to the goal of pursuing both to their fullest. A must-have for any serious musician or lover of art and life.
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Format: Paperback
I keep reading it year after year and I keep finding sections of it I've never seen before. magic. A the same time, I read the same part overs and over again years later and they just get better.
It's just a remarkable text.
You have to get it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Kindle edition is just a collection of scanned pages. The text doesn't reflow, and doesn't zoom. It is microscopic on an ordinary Kindle. The book is marked as "optimized for large screens" but it is really just an extremely lazy attempt at an ebook. I expected reflowable text and a few large images of Cage's visual scores. What I got was unusable on my Kindle.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is one of my favorite books on music, for sure, but the Kindle edition is making me crazy!!! I read on the iPad and have to magnify each page to get the type readable: each page is an image, so no highlighting, annotating etc. is possible, but there's a GIANT margin around the page, which if it had been utilized, would make a totally readable font-size. CRAZY-MAKING!!! a pdf version would at least be possible to mark up using the various PDF readers out there.

what are publishers thinking?!?! PLEASE put some more effort into creating e-reader versions: or at least warn the buyer ahead of time that most e-reader functionality will be unavailable.

okay, rant over. enjoy the book, it's life-changingly wonderful!!!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I always think of John Cage as "Klatuu" in "The Day The Earth Stood Still," arriving in a turn-table-shaped rig to deliver the truth about the future of music to the masses. He parks his space ship, and his buddy Gort, on the mall and goes out to make a point. At first only the smartest man in the world could understand the equations he and Billy left on the office black board, but soon everyone would be standing stranded on the streets of Paris and Beijing wondering what the heck's up, and what's all this noise about? Of course, Klatuu gets killed and brought back to life (Cage wisely skipped that), and flies back to wherever he came from (as did Cage a few years back), but our man Cage beats Klatuu by light years, because this MAN FROM THE FUTURE left behind a collection of lectures and writings on the nature of sound, art, literature and BEING that still resonates. This is a fascinating tool box to dig through, even though some of the most interesting selections pre-date Klatuu. One innovation that Cage pioneers in this book is the use of random processes to give form to his lectures. This results in timed "silences" in the texts (very similar to performance scores) and poem-like structures of words. Cage also adds the 20th century's plastic-fantastic Americanized (and therefore ever more elastic) concept of ZEN to the tool box of avant-garde poly-practioners, which results in yet another permission given to innovate. In fact, when I encounter new music, writing, art, one of the basic things I seek is PERMISSION TO DO, and that's exactly what Cage is up to in these lectures. Not only is PERMISSION GIVEN, but he hands over many of the tools to begin. That's why this book is vital, seminal (pun intended) and necessary for every experimentalist in the arts and in life.Read more ›
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