Well, he was a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg, the biggest fucking musical charlatan of the 20th century, so something must have rubbed off on him.

The word for Cage’s compositional practice is apparently, I’m told by various dullards who bother about these kind of things, “indeterminacy”, “aleatory” being a dirty European word (coined by loser Pierre Boulez) describing a European concept of having some chance elements inside a determined structure. (In this, it is not much different from any piece, ever, as there are always little things different in each performance of each piece. That goes for each playing of a fixed recording, too.)

Indeterminacy, on the other hand, is about finding ways to let go of control, finding ways to bypass one’s own tastes and desires (this goes for performers as well as composers, hence the distinction Cage always made between indeterminacy and improvisation). Aleatory basically leaves the whole Western art tradition intact, leaves the audience still in the position of admiring “works”. Indeterminacy, briefly, overturns the tradition, inviting the audience to take more responsibility for their enjoyment, inviting the audience to become more aware of, if not even enjoy, the sights and sounds of everyday life.

Superficially, they all seem similar, aleatory, improvisation, indeterminacy. But they really are all three quite distinct.

In conclusion, therefore, Arnold Schoenberg was an arse and John Cage was an arse.

Oh come on, seriously, how often do you think, “Where’s that John Cage tape I made in 1972 … I really want to listen to it now” or “Let’s put on Alfred Brendel’s recording of Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto and fuck like crazed weasels”?