WELLESLEY — There’s an emptiness at the core of “Prepared Box for John Cage” that the composer would no doubt smile upon. Emptiness is kin to silence, and Cage, who died weeks before his 80th birthday in 1992, was the maestro of silence.
The exhibit at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College spotlights a portfolio of work about Cage, the groundbreaking modernist whose ideas rippled well beyond music to influence artists, poets, choreographers, and more. Cage, a follower of Zen Buddhism, would compose music by chance, posing a question to the ancient I Ching text to determine what would come next in the score. His visionary use of silence, in particular in the 1952 composition “4’33”,” during which the musician or musicians did not play their instruments, shifted paradigms: Music was no longer about what you listened to, it was about the act of listening. Taking a cue from Marcel Duchamp, who famously found art in everyday objects, Cage found ready-made music in ordinary sounds.