After watching the video in class on John Cage (I Have Nothing to Say and I am Saying It) I really began to understand what he was striving for and experiment with. He was exploring sound and what there was to distinguish it from "music." When you think about it, the first instruments came to be when someone banged on or plucked or rattled an object. I'm sure the thought was "oooh that's a cool sound," and after years and years, that sound was harnessed and fine-tuned, and manipulated until it's what we know today as the musical instrument. It seems that, as we got to a certain point, we decided we were done finding new sounds and simply focused our efforts on the manipulation of those sounds, leaving an entire world full of vibrations to be explored. It seems that, as we limited ourselves to the perfecting of those sounds and instruments already discovered, we also limited our perception of what is or can be music. John Cage simply questioned why we limited ourselves in the first place, and continued the pioneering of instrumental discovery. All things in nature have unique and interesting noises associated with them, and Cage sought to incorporate all of those distinct qualities into his works to broaden both his and others' perception of art and music.
I found it very interesting that Cage claimed to want to be so free in his composition so as to be free of any restrictions of taste -even his. I would go as far to say especially his. As an artist, and even one who walks to the beat of his or her own drum, whether a work comes into being or not depends solely on whether the artist deems it worthy. Even when the opinions of the rest of the world are disregarded, the artist's likes, dislikes, preferences, and motives get in the way of art coming into being. By use of chance operations, Cage was able to free himself from his own constraints and allowed for the art -good or bad or beautiful or ugly or discordant- to come into being without hindrance. Cage said something to the effect of "When I hear a sound and I don't like it, I stop and think, 'why did I not like it?' and after a while, I cease to not like it anymore." I think this indicates his philosophy toward sound and music as one based on pure experience. It's not about liking or not liking the sound, but about simply hearing and experiencing it.
When commenting on his use of chance operations, Cage said something that thoroughly impressed me. It was something like, "The purpose of art isn't to convey a message. The purpose of art is to imitate Nature in her method of operation." I can dig it. Nature is random and chaotic, beautiful and terrible, but all things considered, it is very real. Look at a rose. No predictable pattern, full of imperfections, and yet it affects people. Look at moldy cheese, no predictable pattern, full of imperfections, and yet it affects people. It doesn't so much matter whether you prefer one to the other, but simply that it exists. It's about experiencing it, whether you particularly like it or not. I think Cage achieved this chaotic imitation of Nature's operations through his works, and did, in fact achieve the freedom to imitate her though use of chance operations.