James Pritchett. The Music of John Cage. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. 223pp.

Lochhead, Judy

James Pritchett makes evident his devotion to the music and thought of John Cage in this important contribution not only to Cage scholarship but also to the history of mid- and late- twentieth century music. Pritchett focuses on Cage's compositional activities rather than on the biographical details of his life or on analytical explanations of representative compositions. This focus appears to be motivated by two factors. One is Pritchett's fascination with Cage and his music. The second is his wish to overcome negative attitudes toward Cage as a composer-attitudes that result in descriptions of him as a philosopher or philosopher-composer at best. While critical understanding of composers's musical outputs necessarily builds on a knowledge of the technical details of their pieces, such understanding also goes beyond those details. Pritchett should be applauded for providing "facts" about Cage's career, but there is little in his book that counts as critique. He comments occasionally on the effects of pieces or about the problems with certain techniques, but such commentary is minimal.



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Columbia University
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January 23, 2015