John Cage, USA September 5th 1912 - August 12th 1992.

John Cage is regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century, and his influence is still as strong as ever today.

Cage advocated the use of found sound and environmental sounds within his compositions, and was concerned about the role of the composer in musical work.

One of his most famous pieces contains no sound performed by the musician playing the piece. Instead it provides an arena for the audience to observe the world around them for a mere four minute and thirty-three seconds. The piece, 4’33”, on first glance seems to be a totally silent work, but perhaps the point Cage was making is that there is in fact no such thing as silence, and we can very easily learn a lot about the world around us, and each other, if we only paid a little more attention.

(Cage, 2004, p. 25).

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Photo: Canary Promotion. (2015). John Cage Laugh. Retrieved from

Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise. When we ignore it, it disturbs us. When we listen to it, we find it fascinating. The sound of a truck at fifty miles per hour. Static between the stations. Rain. We want to capture and control these sounds, to use them not as sound effects but as musical instruments.
Cage, 2004, p. 25
The video below shows a section of a performance by Cage of his three-movement piece 4’33” on a piano. Cage drew influence from Zen Buddhism for several of his pieces and approach to composition. Some people perceive this as one of his most controversial compositions, but Cage’s work fits perfectly well within the realm of acoustic ecology.

Cage also attempted to remove any sense of the composer (himself) from his compositions, which is possibly an influence of the Zen Buddhism, and worked a lot with traditional instruments as well as environmental sound.

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Photo: The New Yorker. (2014). John Cage Recordings. Retrieved from

Video: Eugène Zassadko. (2008). John Cage Performs “4:33”. [YouTube]. Retrieved from

Recent developments include an application for iPhone, which allows users to record their own three-movement piece in the style of 4’33”, with the option to upload or to listen to those recorded by others.