John Cage's Queer Silence; or, How to Avoid Making Matters Worse

Jonathan D. Katz

in Writings through John Cage's Music, Poetry, and Art

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2001 | ISBN: 9780226044071
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226044873 | DOI:
John Cage's Queer Silence; or, How to Avoid Making Matters Worse

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This chapter explains aspects of Cage's life seldom discussed in Cage scholarship. It suggets that he came to terms with his homosexuality through Zen Buddhism at the same time as he developed an artistic philosophy based upon the negation of self-expression. Cage's silence in this sense implies his reluctance to mention his sexuality. This chapter maintains that Cage's silence was rooted in his ideological convictions rather than a strategy for avoiding post-World War II homophobia. His silence was a moral stance and it was a way to resist the errors of oppositional politics, which according to Cage, only “make matters worse.” The “silent piece,” 4′33′′, by Cage supplies us with a way to expose the issues associated with listening to and performing Cage's music.

Keywords: Cage's silence; silence; homosexuality; self-expression; silent piece

Chapter.  9851 words. 

Subjects: Music Theory and Analysis

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