THE ROARING SILENCE: John Cage: A Life by David Revill


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Published to coincide with the 80th birthday of the controversial avant-garde composer, Revill's lengthy biography of John Cage may prove as puzzling to readers as the composer's musical experiments have proved to concert-goers over the years. Curiously reticent in presenting the details of his subject's personal life (Cage's homosexuality is airily dismissed, for example, as ""not important given the aims of this book""), Revill, a British musicologist, composer, and musician, devotes page after page to the minutiae of Cage's highly unorthodox methods of composition. For readers who are neither professional musicians nor well versed in math, these extended passages will prove heavy going. Cage himself, moreover, isn't a particularly appealing protagonist, coming off here as pontifical, intolerant, and emotionally detached yet given to faddish enthusiasms (the I Ching, macrobiotic diets, acupuncture, McLuhan's ""global village""). And much of his writing, at least as presented by Revill, has qualties of hand-me-down Gertrude Stein. During his long career, Cage has associated with such figures as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Marcel Duchamp, Igor Stravinsky, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono. But in Revill's hands, these personalities remain sketchy, lifeless walk-ons in a narrative stuffed with lists of music festivals, academic seminars, and personal appearances that provide little insight into Cage's life or world. Revill swings from near-hagiography to surprisingly blunt criticism; neither cuts the mustard.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1992
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: "Arcade--dist. by Little, Brown"