John Cage (b. 1912, Los Angeles - d. 1992, New York NY) was an influential avant-garde composer and theoretician who contributed to the development of minimalism, chance operations, and indeterminacy in postwar aesthetics. His influence extends across the fields of electronic music, the visual arts, performance, and modern dance and choreography. He briefly studied at Pomona College before moving to New York City to pursue more informal studies with composers Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg. By 1939 he had begun to experiment with increasingly unorthodox instruments such as the “prepared piano,” tape recorders, record players, and radios in his effort to step outside the bounds of conventional Western music and its concepts of meaningful sound. The concert he gave with his percussion ensemble at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1943 marked the first step in his emergence as a leader of the American musical avant-garde. In the following years, Zen Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies became major sources of inspiration for Cage.

Among Cage’s best-known works are 4′33″ (1952), a piece in which the performer or performers remain utterly silent onstage for that amount of time; Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951), for 12 randomly tuned radios, 24 performers, and conductor; the Sonatas and Interludes (1946–48) for prepared piano; Fontana Mix (1958), a piece based on a series of programmed transparent cards that, when superimposed, give a graph for the random selection of electronic sounds; Cheap Imitation (1969), an “impression” of the music of Erik Satie; and Roaratorio (1979), an electronic composition utilizing thousands of words found in James Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake. Cage was also an important teacher at the New School for Social Research, where he taught and influenced many artists associated with Fluxus. Cage published several books, including Silence: Lectures and Writings (1961) and M: Writings ’67–’72 (1973). He received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, 1949, and National Academy of Arts and Letters, 1949; Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France, 1982.