Wednesday will count as his 100th birthday. Here are a few of my views:
1. Is it actually good music?
Much of it is, once you get past the gimmicks. For direct musical listening (skip 4’33”) I recommend the piano music, most of all by Herbert Henck or David Tudor or Stephen Drury. The important pieces have held up very well, and even the lesser pieces still are worth hearing at least once.
2. If I wish to try one important piece?
Perhaps “In a Landscape,” on this CD.
3. What if I am looking for a good sampler to reflect his diverse contributions?
4. Are you pulling my leg?
5. Is aleatory music interesting?
To me, no.
Here is Wikipedia on John Cage. Here is John Cage on a 1960 game show, being thwarted by a union dispute. Here is good commentary on that clip. Here is TNR commentary on that clip. Cage was also an expert mycologist. Here are the Italian prizes he won for mushroom identification. Here is the iTunes prepared piano app.
Here are good quotations from John Cage.