Brain Pickings

Celebrating John Cage: 40 Years of Visualizing Music Notation Around the World


“To be an artist, you must immerse yourself with great passion in all that surrounds you.”

Last week’s exploration of John Cage’s remarkably inquisitive, spiritual approach to music reminded me of an old favorite: Notations 21 (public library) — an homage to John Cage’s iconic 1969 Notations, originally released for its 50th anniversary and seeking to inspire “open communication between all fields of study.” The vibrant 320-page tome by composer Theresa Sauer explores how 165 composers and musicians around the world have experienced, communicated, and reimagined music visually by reinventing notation in the past 40 years, deriving inspiration from Cage’s work.

In this short film from Streaming Museum’s John Cage Centennial Tribute, Sauer captures the essence of the project beautifully:

I believe that to be an artist, you must immerse yourself with great passion in all that surrounds you. We can decide if our communication, experiments, processes, and risks that we take have the courage to face being different. But I ask, in my work, the questions — and, as John Cage said, it is about whether the questions are good ones.

John Cage’s influence on our world is unable to be measured, and yet he planted seeds of thought in our minds — and the most amazing seed of thought is the concept of asking questions. The composers and artists represented in continue to ask questions about communication, sound, creativity, our environment, and our experience.

Notations 21 is absolutely exquisite — take a closer look here.

Thanks, Paola

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