John Cage

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John cage kitten

John Cage, post kitten-huff.

“I'm a particular fan of "Piano played with drumsticks attached to cymbals attached to horse".”
~ Oscar Wilde on the music of John Cage

John Cage (1912-1812) was a 20th century composer who enjoyed moderated success in his early life. He was most well known for his unique style of writing odd and unusual pieces, such as "Piano Falling Down Five Flights of Stairs in A Minor", and the classic "Set of Bagpipes Driven by the Exhaust from a Saturn V Rocket's First Stage".

Cage was hailed as a "master of the unique", and his work was regarded as "a refreshing change from music that actually makes sense".

However, his success got the better of him, and in his later life he descended into madness, going through several stages of insanity before finally committing suicide via an overdose of kittens.

For those without comedic tastes, the self-proclaimed experts at Wikipedia have an article about John Cage.

Early life

Cage's parents knew early on that they had a child prodigy on their hands. When he was only 6 months old, he performed a legendary dance routine involving absolutely no motion for roughly four and a half minutes. Cage improved on his act throughout his childhood, until he was playing 8 hour shows to sold-out arenas every night.

It wasn't long before the public began to see Cage as a one trick pony. His dance performances began to lose steam, especially when he started to forget the finer intracies of his routine: he would often turn over in his sleep and sometimes even yawn and stretch, to the utter disgust of fans.

This went on for a while, until one day, over dinner, his father made him an ultimatum - that he had to find something else he was good at, or be thrown out if the house. Cage, who was distraught, started hitting his cutlery off the table whilst stamping his feet for five whole minutes. His father was shocked and yet captivated by this performance, recording it and sending it to the local music professor. Everyone who heard what later became known as "Cutlery Concerto no. 1" loved it and Cage's swift rise to fame led to him being labelled the "next big thing" in the music scene.

For a good few years after "Cutlery Concerto no. 1", Cage was a mega-star of his time, producing hit after hit of songs using never-before-used instruments, pitches, keys, and time signatures. Examples of this include several pieces in the key of "Z-flat rounded", a piece for a 10" length of string in Up/Down time, and a piece with a negative tempo.

Descent into Madness

Soon, however, his concerts began to flop, and the only people who would pay for them were rich old ladies who John would seduce. He and his accountant later formed a plan that was guaranteed to make them filthy rich: simply raise more money from the concert than it takes to produce it, and walk away with the difference.

This plan was a resounding success, and worked for several years. However, his amassed wealth inevitably led to a life of chain kitten huffing. His health deteriorated, and was eventually diagnosed with yiff.

His mental condition did not stop him composing, however. In fact, he developed an unstoppable urge to create the worst piece of music in the world, and so his output of music doubled, though the pieces got progressively worse and worse. Some examples of his music from this stage include "An infinite number of monkeys playing an infinite number of notes all at once", "My penis in A minor", and the ever popular "Crazy Frog".

Cage deliberated for months trying to come up with the absolute worst song in the history of music. He wanted something that wasn't just bad, but was an insult to music itself. In a moment of inspiration, Cage wrote 4'33": a piece of complete silence... in stereo.

4'33" - Silence... in stereo


Excerpt from 4'33". This is one of the most famous passages from 4'33", and has been played on the radio every single day since its release.

Unfortunately, 4'33" turned out to be a resounding success. Critics praised its "bold and daring" approach, which "challenged the definition of music" and was the "epitome of Zen-like simplicity". Most fans agree than the highlight of the song is the 2:15 mark, where the trumpets don't come in.

The song was also noted as being the first song to use stereo to its full potential. Cage had this to say about it in an interview -

“It's like the silence is all around you, man. It's, like, you're in the middle of it and you can feel it swirling all around you, and like, you're really listening to your own soul. Hey, go and pass me that kitten, dude.”
~ John Cage on the use of stereo in 4'33"

4'33" first wasn't played in 1935, and then continued to not be played for years after. The 4'33 fiasco is widely attributed as being the cause of his descent into uber-madness. He stated that it was driving him round the bend because he couldn't stop listening to it or turn it off, even while at work, and that it was playing in his ears 24-hours-a-day, preventing him from sleeping. Even when he put his hands over them, he said that he could still hear the blood running through his veins and the sound of his heart-beat. He would randomly attack people he caught humming the tune as he passed them in the street, in an obvious attempt to mock him. His eventual suicide, was his final effort to get the song out of his head.

Several remixes of 4'33" were produced for the anniversary of his death, including one in 7.1 surround sound, and the extended dance remix, 9'42".

Later life

Much of Cage's later life was spent in Alcatraz, having been convicted for crimes against music whilst still in his "composing really bad music" phase. He was given a life sentence, but later managed to escape, distracting the guards with a performance he put on for the whole prison - setting fire to a nitroglycerin-filled french horn whilst dressed as Zsa Zsa Gabor, with full upside-down orchestral backing.

He escaped to the countryside, where he lived in solitude, tormented by his illnesses, and his constant affliction of being unable to get 4'33" out of his head. He wrote only a few pieces in this time, though the monumental "G O D S A V E T H E C U R R E N T I N B R E D R O Y A L L E A D E R" was one of these few. It considered one of his best accomplishments, and is still used as the national anthem of Britain today.

His eventual suicide in 1812 came as a shock to many who had come to regard many of his pieces in the same way as one regards a bat fuck insane, but otherwise harmless relative. A mass funeral was held, with a minute's silence, followed by a hearty rendition of 4'33" with Oscar Wilde on the piano, of which several encores were played.

“It was the most moving funeral I've ever had the privelege of not playing at.”
~ Oscar Wilde on John Cage's funeral

Even in the afterlife, Cage's troubles were not over. He was denied access into Heaven after a jury of angels convicted him of plagiarism, citing that Cage's 4'33" was a shallow imitation of an ongoing song written by God, tentatively entitled 1.05x10^16' 33".

Notable Works by John Cage

  • An infinite number of monkeys playing an infinite number of notes all at once
  • Piano Falling Down Five Flights of Stairs in A Minor
  • My penis in A Minor (I swear - he told me he was 18!)
  • Piano Failing Down a Mine Shaft with A Miner
  • 4'33" (of Ear-splitting Silence)
  • Set of Bagpipes Driven by the Exhaust from a Saturn V Rocket's First Stage
  • The Detroit Symphony Orchestra Drowning in a Piranha-infested Swimming Pool in B-flat Major
  • 537 Obese Nuns Screaming Random Obscenities at Intellectually-Inferior Art Critics
  • The Sound of One Bloody Stump Clapping
  • The Crazy Frog
  • Hey Jude
  • Stairway to Heaven
  • Requiem for a Destroyed Toy Ukulele
  • G O D S A V E T H E C U R R E N T I N B R E D R O Y A L L E A D E R (British anthem)
  • 12 Monkeys High on Crack Banging on Harpsichords
  • O, Colorado Wyoming
  • The Sound of Silence (talk radio edit)
  • Nothing
  • Naaffin'!!! (a revised version of "Nothing" for the London Cockney Tramp Choir)
  • Sonata for sausage-mincer and prepared water-tank
  • The Intel Inside music
  • The Sound of a Dry Twig Snapping under the Weight of Nuked Earth
  • Prepared Bowel Orchestra no's 4-89, performed over 3 weeks while burried in a pit and covered in a combination of thumb tacks and coleslaw.
  • Rainforest Escapades in F sharp minor (composition for the Woodblock)

See Also

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