Observations: Finally, John Cage joins the musical mainstream


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The Independent Culture

He has been termed music's greatest iconoclast. But in his centenary year, is John Cage going mainstream?

The composer's Musicircus airs at Aldeburgh Festival tonight; later this summer, a whole evening at the Proms is devoted to his works. Yet in his lifetime (1912-1992), struggling for a living, Cage (right) would have regarded this outcome with incredulity. His outlook could scarcely have been more different from Britten's, on whose territory Aldeburgh is founded.

It wasn't just his prepared pianos, plucked cactuses and silences that upset the establishment; more than anything, it was the way he incorporated into his music the notion of chance – eliminating the creator's ego and making choices with the I Ching.

Musicircus is not a concert but a "happening": as many performances as possible at the same time, in one big-top-like area. "You won't hear a thing. You'll hear everything," Cage once explained, hoping that attendees would "get the joyousness of the anarchic spirit". At Aldeburgh, the ensemble Exaudi and sound artist Bill Thompson promise to "throw open the doors and let the sound stream out".

Tonight (aldeburgh.co.uk)