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An Exploration of the Music of John Cage

When is music? What type of sound is a musical sound? When is an object an object, and when is an object an instrument? These questions do not have right or wrong answers, but by examining them we can gain insight into the music of John Cage.

John Cage

John Cage (1912-1982) is considered by many to be one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. His music stretched the boundaries of traditional music composition and challenged audiences to examine how they define music and the instruments used to create it.

This website provides some opportunities to examine Cage’s compositional processes, musical ideas, and radical instruments. We invite you to take a look at the different activities and use them to deepen your understanding of Cage’s music as well as create your own compositions in the style of Cage.





As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Cage’s birth, we hope you will join us as we attempt to examine the question “When is Music?” through the questions of:

Each activity offers a perspective on how Cage viewed music and how you can attempt to experience music through Cage’s ideas. Share your experiences with the activities and contribute to our site so that we can all benefit from our shared exploration of this remarkable composer and his amazing compositions.

This site was developed by the 2012 Digital and Participatory Culture in Music course in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts School of Music at Arizona State University. These activities are designed to complement the ASU Contemporary Music Series 2012 John Cage Festival that took place on the ASU campus from April 17-19, 2012.

The related projects are designed for community engagement as well as K-12 music classes. Please share these resources with others.

For inquiries or information related to this project contact:Dr. Evan Tobias (evan dot tobias at asu dot edu)

Continue exploring our project: