Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

John Cage: The Apps

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Photograph of composer John Cage, 1988, photo by Rob Bogaerts, via Wikimedia Commons.

While doing background research for the most recent free concerts post, I stumbled upon these John Cage apps.

These apps were developed by the John Cage Trust and can be found at the official John Cage website.

iPhone users can download the 4’33” app.  With this app, users can capture the ambient sounds in their environment and upload them (in three movements).  You can also listen to other people’s contributions from a variety of locations around the globe.  Sorry, no Android version available.  Though the website says it is free, it is $0.99 at the App Store.

iPhone and Android users can download the free Prepared Piano app.  The iPad and Android tablet versions cost $0.99 each.  With this app, you can play samples of a piano prepared with various bits of hardware placed under and between the piano strings.  You can record your own performance, using nine sampled notes at a time (free versions; the tablet versions have 36 prepared notes), and share it.  It is noted that these are the actual materials used by John Cage in his Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano.

You might want to explore the Cage website, which includes a recording of his work Empty Words.  In this piece, Cage reads from the Journals of Henry David Thoreau, leaving out randomly-selected sentences, phrases, words, and syllables in the four movements (lasting over eleven hours), sometimes yielding an effect similar to listening to Beowulf in Old EnglishEmpty Words runs continuously on the site, so you will come in at a random spot in the piece.  If you arrive at a moment of silence, wait, or come back at the randomly-selected time of your choice.  Perhaps in four minutes and 33 seconds.


Image attribution:  Photograph of John Cage by Rob Bogaerts / Anefo, 1988, Fotocollectie Anefo. Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, nummertoegang, bestanddeelnummer 934-2728, via Wikimedia Commons [Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication],

One thought on “John Cage: The Apps

  1. Thank you for this nudge, which pushed me back to find a recitation of the Homeric Greek of the Odyssey. Far out. Cage, so wonderfully out of the box, is inspiring. All of this wackiness is priceless. Reminding us to take very seriously all that we should never take seriously, and vice-versa. That if we cannot have any fun then why are we here?

    Cage – reading from the journals of Thoreau… echo, yesterday afternoon in my living room, a PBS documentary on Samuel Barber, I first learned of Dover Beach, the poem long favorite of mine, but I had no idea Barber set it to music. And so on, and so off, we go.

    FWIW. At this link is a reading of lines 1-27 of the Odyssey, for the curious:

    Just a few minutes to get the flavor. That’s all we need.

    Or maybe we need all eleven hours, thirty-seven minutes, thirty-two seconds, to hear the English translation:



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