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Van Meter Ames papers

 Collection
Identifier: UA-11-09

Scope and Content

This collection documents the relationship between University of Cincinnati philosophy professor Van Meter Ames and prolific 20th Century composer John Cage. A friend and fan of Cage, Ames drafted a manuscript, involving aspects of both Cage's life and his own, that never received publication but is available in this collection. The collection also contains correspondence between Cage and Ames, newspaper clippings and programs of Cage's accomplishments/works, and some of Cage's creative writing.

Dates

  • 1966-1995

Creator

Language of Materials

The records are in English

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Biography of Van Meter Ames and John Cage

Van Meter Ames joined the University of Cincinnati Philosophy Department in 1925 and was department head from 1959 until 1966, when he retired. He was a founding member of the American Society for Aesthetics and its president 1961-1962. He was also president of the Western Division of the American Philosophical Association (1959-1960). Ames was a Rockefeller grantee, a fellow of the UC graduate school, and a Fulbright research professor in philosophy at the University of Komozawa, Tokyo (1958-1959).

Throughout his career, Ames wrote and published on a vast range of topics including aesthetics, the self, ethics, religion, science, freedom, existentialism, and Eastern philosophy. His interest in Zen paralleled Cage's and solidified their mutual respect for one another, which is evidenced in this collection of his papers which outline their friendship as well as Cage's career.

Born in Los Angeles in 1918, John Cage became one of the most notable avant-garde composers of the 20th Century. He studied music with famous composers like Schoenberg, Cowell, Weiss, and Buhlig but developed a style that was uniquely his own. Cage believed that any sounds could be music which led him to compose for not only standard instruments, but also found objects, magnetic tape, amplified cacti, vegetables, water, and even silence. An avid Zen Buddhist, Cage sought to compose without intention and often used chance operations, via the I-Ching, when composing. Cage has written for multiple genres, including opera and ballet as well as various forms of chamber ensemble.

Included in Cage's chamber works are numerous pieces for percussion ensemble, many of which were written specifically for The Percussion Group Cincinnati, trio in residence at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory Music, consisting of Allen Otte, James Culley, and Russell Burge. This group worked directly with Cage and even joined him on tour, premiering and recording many of his pieces.

Though most widely recognized for his musical achievements, Cage had a strong influence in the worlds of dance, art, writing, and philosophy. He was the musical director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Co. in NYC and often performed his music with the company, in addition to composing it. Evolving from a need for compactness when on tour with the dancers, Cage invented the prepared piano. Placing various objects in between the strings of the piano allowed Cage an endless array of percussive sounds without having to lug around percussion equipment.

In the realm of visual art, Cage produced lithographs, plexigrams, etchings, and prints. Like his music, much of his art incorporated chance operations and unconventioinal mediums/materials. His well-known works include, but are certainly not limited to, Not wanting to Say Anything About Marcel (1969), Score Without Parts (1978), and Changes and Disappearances (1979-80). Cage often talked about the overlap between music, film, and art. Considering that "the essential meaning of silence is the giving up of intention," Cage compared Raushenberg's white paintings to Paik's film with no images to his own piece, 4'33". He became a part of American Underground film, working with filmmakers like Brakhage and Vanderbeek. During his term as artist in residence at the University of Cincinnati, in the 1966-7 academic year, Cage was part of a Cinema Now discussion series, and made a huge impact on Cincinnati's art culture.

More of Cage's philosophy on art, and life in general, can be found in his writings, which include Silence, M, Empty Words, X, A Year from Monday, and Anarchy. Additionally, Cage's obsession with mushrooms led him to co-author The Mushroom Book which includes lithographs of mushrooms and hand-written texts on mushroom hunting, identification, and cooking. In conjunction with all of his other artistic works, Cage's writings involve chance and unusual formal and textual designs.

Extent

1.25 Linear Feet

Overview

This collection documents the relationship between University of Cincinnati philosophy professor Van Meter Ames and prolific 20th Century composer John Cage. A friend and fan of Cage, Ames drafted a manuscript, involving aspects of both Cage's life and his own, that never received publication but is available in this collection. The collection also contains correspondence between Cage and Ames, newspaper clippings and programs of Cage's accomplishments/works, and some of Cage's creative writing.

Statement of Arrangement

This collection is arranged into folders by subject matter.

Physical Location

Archives and Rare Books Library
Title
Finding aid for the Van Meter Ames papers
Status
Edited Full Draft
Author
Finding aid prepared by Lauren Fink
Date
2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Rare Books Library Repository

Contact:
8th Floor Blegen Library
2602 McMicken Circle
P.O. Box 210113
Cincinnati Ohio 45221-0113
513-556-1959