Friday, March 31, 2006


Cage After 1970: Essential?

So I was thinking about Cage’s output since 1970 again, and decided to show what I’m talking about graphically, by plotting the number of works for each year, 1932-1992 (I did include lost works from the 30’s and 40’s; I did not include some unscored events).

(view the original full size: )
You can obviously see the huge increase in the 80’s and 90’s (obviously the 1992 dot is misleading; Cage completed 11 works by his August 12th death, so I’d project that his output that year would have been 18 works).

However, this graph is not very smooth, and I’d like something more explicit and easier on the eyes. Therefore I made a plot showing each year Cage worked, and the contribution of that year to his total output as a percentage. The result is a monotonically increasing function of the year, and you can relate the year to the percentage of his total output Cage had completed as of that year:
(view the original full size: )
This leads to an interesting conclusion:

The Cage biographies that ignore Cage’s work after 1969’s HPSCHD are ignoring roughly half of his output.

That is, what I said before about the later work being important too was an understatement. It would be better to say that ignoring work after 1969 is like discussing Bach’s music and not mentioning his cantatas!

January of 2005 I made a series of flashcards in Powerpoint that I had intended to use to mentally cluster Cage’s output (see previous post) by putting the cards in separate piles, grouping similar music together. I never finished the post 1970 stuff, and maybe now would be a good time to do that, since my library here has copious Cage material and I know more than I did then. I’ll see what I come up with.

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