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Thu, 08/10/2023 – 14:31
Germany, 1900-1967, also active United States
Oil on panel
Purchased with funds provided by the Austin and Irene Young Trust by exchange
Seemingly a nexus for the greatest artistic minds of the 20th century, John Cage encountered Oskar Fischinger in Los Angeles in 1936. Introduced by the German painter and art dealer Galka Scheyer, the young composer befriended Fischinger and was soon invited to assist him in writing the film score for An Optical Poem (1937). During this brief collaboration, the older filmmaker said something that would free Cage from the confines of harmonic composition. Cage summarized this formative moment in a poem dedicated to Fischinger: “when you said each inanimate object has a spirit that can take the form of sound by being set into vibration i became a musician / it was as though you had set me on fire i ran without thinking and threw myself into the water.”
A new consideration of the sonic, and even spiritual, potential of objects opened up a world of infinite possibilities for Cage, who later recalled, “I began hitting, rubbing everything, listening, and then writing percussion music.” This percussive path soon led Cage to the Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle where he began working with dancers, including Merce Cunningham, who would become his life partner and collaborator in experimenting with the world of movement and sound.