Composition in Retrospect by John Cage

Composition in Retrospect by John Cage

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Written in his characteristic “mesostics” (linked lines of prose poetry), Composition in Retrospect is a statement of methodology in which John Cage examines the central issues of his work: indeterminacy, nonunderstanding, inconsistency, imitation, variable structure, contingency…

Finished only shortly before his death in 1992, Composition in Retrospect completes the documentation of Cage’s thought that began thirty years earlier with his classic collection Silence. Given Cage’s vigilant attention to the present, the text can serve as an introduction and invitation to his work as much as a summary or conclusion.

Also included in this volume (as Cage requested) is Themes and Variations, a 1982 piece inspired by friends and heroes such as Jasper Johns, Buckminster Fuller, Marcel Duchamp, and Erik Satie. Together these two works make for a book that is both a testament to the artists Cage admired, and a clear statement of his own ars poetica.


184 pages, paperback