One of the foremost post-World War II avant-garde composers, music theorists, writers, and artists known for his pioneering electroacoustic music, indeterminacy in music, prepared piano, and non-standard use of musical instruments.
He was the class valedictorian at Los Angeles High School in 1928. He was profoundly impacted by his studies of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism during the latter part of the 1940s.
His 1952 composition "4′33" consisted of musicians sitting silently for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. With this piece, Cage was making the point that environmental sounds constitute a kind of music.
His mother Lucretia Harvey was a journalist for the Los Angeles Times. His longtime romance with choreographer Merce Cunningham provided him with the opportunity to impact the evolution of modern dance.
He studied with the renowned composer and musician Arnold Schoenberg.