A musician, educator, and mother, Natalie Alexandra Tse shares with us how John Cage's philosophies of sound and music inspired her shows which encourage young children to experience varied sound-making process.

This article is an excerpt of the article by Esplanade, read the full article here

Do you sometimes find your little one banging on tables and chairs? Might they sometimes ask you about a sound they hear in the environment, be it the sound of rain or cars honkin g?

Our little ones naturally embody concepts that would have resonated with John Cage (1912–1992), an American composer who influenced new ways of thinking in music. He pioneered some of the most experimental, minimalist and electronic approaches to music-making and appreciation. He was also a notable writer and artist.

John Cage was greatly influenced by eastern philosophies. He believed that Life and Art are not separate. Just like how Man and Nature are in this world together, one affects the oth er, and would not exist without each other. Most of the time, they would simply be with each other.

Here are seven “new” music ideas inspired by John Cage:

1. The opposite of sound is silence
One may assume that in order to hear a sound, there needs to be silence. Cage drew attention to the spaces in between musical notes, just like how the space between a word and the ne xt (like in song lyrics) is silent. This is a defining feature of music in terms of how we perceive beats and rhythms!

4’33”, possibly the most famous John Cage piece of all where the pianist performs 4 minutes and 33 seconds of “silence”; or rather, allowing sounds in the env ironment to permeate the concert hall.

2. Yet silence doesn’t really exist
Even when you are in the quietest place imaginable, you will still be able to hear your body working. According to Cage, he went to the quietest place on Earth and said he could stil l hear his heartbeat and nervous system! (Though scientists and critics would later say this was unlikely to be his nervous system but tinnitus, often described as a ringing in a per son’s ears when no actual sound is present.)

Cage talking about his experience in the anechoic chamber, a room free of reverberation.

3. Sound is sound
Sound does not have to mean anything. It does not have to represent a picture, an idea or a feeling. Music is made up of sounds, but these sounds don’t always have to make up a song or melody to be beautiful. We can appreciate the beauty of sounds just by listening to their qualities, whether high or low, sharp or dull, loud or soft.

Continue reading here to learn about the music ideas inspired by John Cage.

Image Courtesy of Esplanade