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Silencing the Sounded Self

John Cage and the American Experimental Tradition

Christopher Shultis

Publication Year: 2013

Christopher Shultis has observed an intriguing contrast between John Cage's affinity for Thoreau and fellow composer Charles Ives's connection with Emerson. Although both Thoreau and Emerson have been called transcendentalists, they held different views about the relationship between nature and humanity and about the artist's role in creativity. Shultis explores the artist's "sounded" or "silenced" selves--the self that takes control of the creative experience versus the one that seeks to coexist with it--and shows how recognizing this distinction allows a better understanding of Cage. He then extends the contrasts between Emerson and Thoreau to distinctions between objective and projective verse. Having placed Cage in this experimental tradition of music, poetry, and literature, Shultis offers provocative interpretations of Cage's aesthetic views, especially as they concern the issue of non-intention, and addresses some of his most path-breaking music as well as several experimentally innovative written works.

Published by: University Press of New England


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

As I wrote and rewrote this book, many friends and colleagues offered their generous assistance. I thank first of all those who read and commented upon all or part of my work in manuscript or published form: Thomas Barrow, Lee Bartlett, Hanjo Berressem, Konrad Boehmer, Norman O. Brown, Thomas...

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pp. xv-xxiv

Context is a predominant concern in my study of John Cage. According to Jonathan Brent, "In Europe he is seen as characteristically American,- in America he is seen as an anomaly."1 This book will challenge the American perception of Cage as an outsider. The first three chapters place John Cage in a distinctively...

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Introduction to the New Edition

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pp. xxv-xxx

Silencing the Sounded Self was published in 1998. I tried to make an error-free book back then, and looking back, I think I mostly succeeded. This doesn’t mean there aren’t things I would change now, and I’m sure readers will find their own points of disagreement; however, I’ve decided...

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pp. 1-8

Part One will consider the distinction of self in twentiethcentury American experimental music by locating that distinction with nineteenth-century predecessors. It will examine the aesthetic writings of the composers Charles Ives and John Cage and those of their respective mentors, Ralph Waldo Emerson and...

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pp. 9-28

I will now address certain affinities between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Charles Ives. After briefly describing their experimentalism, I will show that they hold similar aesthetic views regarding the inherently dual relation between humanity and nature. Both identify art as capable of unifying the two via the...

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pp. 29-58

Henry David Thoreau and John Cage depart from the experimental aesthetic views of Emerson and Ives in the following ways. First, they see humanity's relation to the world as nondualistic. Their experiments do not require human imposition,- they simply require attentive observation. Second, Thoreau and...


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pp. 59-60

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pp. 61-84

The Emersonian "eye": such transparency remains within the concrete "I" of the self. Thoreau's use of the self attempted to make the "I" transparent. Rather than becoming an emanating source of vision, this self simply observes phenomena. These disparate positions inform two kinds of contemporary poetry,...

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pp. 85-126

In this chapter I will address John Cage's inclusive desire to allow room for silence in both his musical compositions and written texts. Cage himself noted that "silence" had been a lifelong concern:...


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pp. 127-160

Works Cited

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pp. 161-170


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pp. 171-180

E-ISBN-13: 9781611685084
E-ISBN-10: 1611685087
Print-ISBN-13: 9781611685077

Page Count: 210
Publication Year: 2013