Begin Again by Kenneth Silverman

Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage

A biography of major importance: the first comprehensive life of John Cage—musician, inventor, dance composer, poet, and central figure of the postwar avant-garde—who died in 1992 at the age of eighty.

Award-winning biographer Kenneth Silverman follows Cage from his California childhood—his father was a successful inventor—through his vision-expanding stay in Paris in 1930–31 and his truncated studies with Arnold Schoenberg. We see his early experiments with sound and instruments, and we watch as he develops his signature work with prepared piano, radio static, random noise, and silence. We learn of his many friendships over the years with other composers, artists, philosophers, and writers; of his early marriage; and of his female and male lovers and his long relationship with Merce Cunningham, with whom he would collaborate on groundbreaking performance pieces that continue to be influential in the worlds of both music and dance.

Drawing on interviews with Cage’s contemporaries and friends and on the entire archive of his letters and writings, and including photographs and facsimiles of musical scores, Silverman gives us a revelatory portrait of one of the most important cultural figures of the twentieth century.

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Recordings from Mode Records

Eleven of the discussions of works by John Cage in the book contain bracketed inserts headed TRACK 1, TRACK 2, etc. They refer to recordings of the works, extracts of which can be heard below. All the tracks come from recordings produced by Mode Records. A list of the Mode album numbers and of the performers can be found at the end of the biography.

Excerpts courtesy of Mode Records.

1. Bacchanale (1940), Mode 180/81
Performed by Philipp Vandré. © 2007 Mode Records. Audio
2. Sonatas I – III (1946-1948), Mode 50
Performed by Philipp Vandré. © 1996 Mode Records. AudioAudioAudio
3. Music of Changes (1951), Mode 147
Peformed by Martine Joste. © 2005 Mode Records. Audio
4. Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957-58), Mode 57
Performed by David Tudor, Ensemble Modern, Ingo Metzmacher (conductor). © 1997 Mode Records Audio
5. Cartridge Music (1960), Mode 24
Performed by Takehisa Kosugi, Michael Pugliese, David Tudor. © 1991, 2008 Mode Records. Audio
6. Series re Morris Graves (1973), Mode 84/85
Performed by John Cage. © 1999 Mode Records. Audio
7. Freeman Etudes I – II (1977-1980), Mode 32
Performed by Irvine Arditti. © 1993 Mode Records. AudioAudio
8. Apartment House 1776 (1976), Mode 41
Performed by Walter Buckingham, Darrell Dunn, Semenya McCord, Chiam Parchi. Avant Garde Ensemble of New England Conservatory, Stephen Drury, conductor. © 1994 Mode Records. Audio
9. Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake (1979), Mode 28/29
Performed by John Cage, Joe Heaney, Seamus Ennis, Paddy Glackin, Matt Malloy, Peadher Mercier. © 1992, 2002 Mode Records. Audio
10. Europera 3 (1990), Mode 38/39
Performed by the Long Beach Opera. Audio
11. Two6 (1992), Mode 100
Performed by Stephen Drury and Irvine Arditti. © 2001 Mode Records. Audio

Kenneth Silverman
About the Author
Born and raised in Manhattan, Kenneth Silverman is Professor Emeritus of English at New York University. His other books include A Cultural History of the American Revolution, The Life and Times of Cotton Mather, Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance, Houdini!!!: The Career of Ehrich Weiss, and Lightning Man: The Accursed Life of Samuel F.B. Morse. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he is the winner of the Bancroft Prize in American History, the Pulitzer Prize for Biography, the Edgar Award of the Mystery Writers of America, and the Christopher Literary Award of the Society of American Magicians.

Photo © 2003 Nancy Crampton