Each...is at the center': Thoughts on a Cagean view of [music] history
Contemporary Music Review, 31, (1), .
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Traditional historiographical practices deal almost exclusively with prospective chains of
influence, prioritizing the canonic over the non-canonic, and the influence flowing from
an individual over the influences flowing toward her or him. Similarly, historical preeminence
is valued more than historical accuracy. Although John Cage’s view of history
originally chimed with these traditional practices, from the 1940s onward he increasingly
came to dismiss teleological historiography in favor of an alternative view that might be
characterized as ‘centrality.’ This essay examines Cage’s journey from traditional to
alternative historiographic practices, focusing in particular on a passage in ‘Communication,’
the third of his 1958 Darmstadt lectures, and reflects on the challenges created
by a historiography based in centrality.
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