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Earth Sounds – Listening for the Music of the Earth

5 Composers Who Celebrate the Earth in their Music

On Earth Day (April 22) more than one billion people around the globe celebrate the Earth and raise environmental awareness. through in-person gatherings, music concerts, art projects, television specials, nature walks, online campaigns, and through other actions and activities. Last year, we learned about five ways we can honor the Earth through the arts. In 2019, we learned how to make kid-friendly musical shakers by upcycling household materials. On Earth Day 2022, we will learn how to listen to the the music that is all around us and how composers have used the sounds of nature as a source of inspiration. In today's post, we will learn about musical works of five different 20th and 21st-century composers, John Cage (Sept. 5, 1912 – Aug. 12, 1992), Bernie Krause (b. Dec. 8, 1938), John Luther Adams (b. Jan. 23, 1953), Tan Dun (Aug. 18, 1957), and Mileece Abson (b. June 19, 1978).

John Cage

The function of art is not to communicate one's personal ideas or feelings, but rather to imitate nature in her manner of operations.

John Cage
John Cage

John Milton Cage, Jr. was born in Los Angeles, CA, on September 5, 1912. His father, John Milton Cage, Sr., was an inventor and electrical engineer and his mother, Lucretia Harvey "Crete" Cage, was a journalist. Growing up, John studied piano. After two years studying liberal arts at Pomona College, he spent eighteeen months in Europe where we pursued various creative fields. He dabbled in poetry, painting, and architecture, until finally finding his place as, as he called "an inventor of music."

Cage is most well-known for his collborations with his partner choreographer Merce Cunningham (April 16, 1919 – July 26, 2009), his philosophy of Indeterminacy, and his works for "prepared" or altered pianos. You can experiment virually with Cage's pianos in the Official Cage Pianos App. In Indeterminacy some musical elements are left up to the performer or to chance. (We first learned about it in the post What Is Chance Music?.)

Cage earned notoriety for his work 4'33" (pronounced "four minutes, thirty-three seconds) (1952) for a any instrument or combination of instruments. The score instructs the performer(s) not to play their instrument(s) during the entire duration of the piece. The object is to encourage the audience to pay attention to the sounds that occur n