CM: John Milton Cage Jr. (b. Los Angeles, California) was an American composer, philosopher, poet, music theorist, artist, and printmaker. A pioneer of chance music, electronic music and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20 th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009), who was also Cage's romantic partner for most of their lives. Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4'33", the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played, one of the most controversial compositions of the 20 th century. Another famous creation of Cage's is the prepared piano (a piano with its sound altered by placing various objects in the strings), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces, the best known of which is Sonatas and Interludes (1946-1948). His teachers included Henry Cowell (in 1933) and Arnold Schoenberg (in 1933-1935), both known for their radical innovations in music, but Cage's major influences lay in various Eastern cultures. Through his studies of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism in the late 1940s, Cage came to the idea of aleatoric or chance-controlled music, which he started composing in 1951. The I Ching, an ancient Chinese classic text on changing events, became Cage's standard composition tool for the rest of his life. In a 1957 lecture, Experimental Music, he described music as "a purposeless play" which is "an affirmation of life - not an attempt to bring order out of chaos nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply a way of waking up to the very life we're living".
In the present print Nam June Paik pictured two collaborating American artists: composer John Cage (1912-1992) and choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009). Cage was one of the leading avant-garde composers of the 20th century, most famous perhaps for his silent work of 1952, 4'33". He was closely connected with art and artists throughout his long career, but perhaps more so with Cunningham. With this print Paik paid tribute to Cage and Cunningham's 50-year collaboration. Cage had been Cunningham company's musical adviser since 1949. Cage and Cunningham shared similar ideas about art. Cage created music of 'purposeless play', which put the listener in sync with nature. Cunningham choreographed to Cage's music pure dance that is plotless and egoless. Both artists are well known to have been committed to breaking down boundaries between art and life and dealing with the complex relationship between art and life. Paik made the John Cage print in 1991 in a small edition of 40 pieces. These prints were intended as presents to special friends and partners of his project, which explains their preciousness and rarity.