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John Cage's Entanglement with the Ideas of Coomaraswamy

Crooks, E J (2011) John Cage's Entanglement with the Ideas of Coomaraswamy. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

The American composer John Cage was famous for the expansiveness of his thought. In particular, his borrowings from ‘Oriental philosophy’ have directed the critical and popular reception of his works. But what is the reality of such claims? In the twenty years since his death, Cage scholars have started to discover the significant gap between Cage’s presentation of theories he claimed he borrowed from India, China, and Japan, and the presentation of the same theories in the sources he referenced. The present study delves into the circumstances and contexts of Cage’s Asian influences, specifically as related to Cage’s borrowings from the British-Ceylonese art historian and metaphysician Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. In addition, Cage’s friendship with the Jungian mythologist Joseph Campbell is detailed, as are Cage’s borrowings from the theories of Jung. Particular attention is paid to the conservative ideology integral to the theories of all three thinkers. After a new analysis of the life and work of Coomaraswamy, the investigation focuses on the metaphysics of Coomaraswamy’s philosophy of art. The phrase ‘art is the imitation of nature in her manner of operation’ opens the doors to a wide-ranging exploration of the mimesis of intelligible and sensible forms. Comparing Coomaraswamy’s ‘Traditional’ idealism to Cage’s radical epistemological realism demonstrates the extent of the lack of congruity between the two thinkers. In a second chapter on Coomaraswamy, the extent of the differences between Cage and Coomaraswamy are revealed through investigating their differing approaches to rasa, the Renaissance, tradition, ‘art and life’, and museums. So why have such discrepancies – and related Orientalisms – frequently been ignored and furthered in writings on Cage? Utilizing the theories of Edward Said, the final chapter analyses Cage’s writings and writings on Cage to reveal the operation of Orientalism in Cage studies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: John Cage, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Orientalism, Asian influences, rasa theory, ‘art imitates nature in her manner of operation’, Joseph Campbell, Edward W. Said, Postcolonial discourse analysis, cultural musicology, Indian philosophies, idealism, epistemological realism, ontology, metaphysics, Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas, Ruskin, Emerson, Thoreau, Jung, the Renaissance, Nancy Wilson Ross, Amores, The Perilous Night, Sonatas and Interludes, Sixteen Dances, 4’33”, Solo for Voice 58, the prince and the shaggy nag, ‘A Composers Confessions’, ‘Defence of Satie’, ‘Lecture on Something’, ‘Indeterminacy’, Silence, Cage studies, Traditionalism, perennial philosophy, aristocratic elitism.
Academic Units: The University of York > Music (York)
Depositing User: Edward James Crooks
Date Deposited: 21 Dec 2011 12:47
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 08:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1985

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