Whatever it is, part of what interests me about Cage is how his influence -- ideas like indeterminacy, his reworking of certain Asian ideas including the Tao, prepared instruments that extended the innovations of Henry Cowell -- reached outside classical or experimental music. He even inspired, albeit briefly, the Beatles.
In this story, from Sunday's LA Times, I speak to a wide range of artists, including Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields and Mac from Superchunk, about the composer's long reach.
Here's what performance artist Rachel Rosenthal, who knew Cage a bit in New York in the '50s, told me about him:
His presence was peculiar – unlike anyone else’s. He was always either smiling and laughing – or extremely serious. Nothing in between.