Is music just sounds? And what does it communicate?

In one of his three 1958 “Composition as Process” lectures at Darmstadt, John Cage recited a string of randomly assembled questions. One of the most poignant of these questions was: “Is music just sounds? And what does it communicate?”

Rather than ask the obvious suspects to contribute comments, we decided it would be more appropriate to maintain an aleatory objectivity to appropriately reflect the aesthetics of this issue. So, instead we rolled a pair of virtual dice to guide us in choosing our participants. The dice gave us the numbers 6 and 1, which we then used as the basis of search queries in our birthday database of over 5000 American composers in the following ways:

Composers born on January 6 (1/6 American-style or 6/1 European-style)

Composers born on June 1 (6/1 American-style or 1/6 European-style)

Composers born on the 7th day (6+1) of any month.

(Considering people’s astrological dispositions, choosing composers born in July somehow seemed too calculated.)

We derived still further names from searching for composers whose first name began with the first letter of the alphabet and whose last name began with the sixth letter of the alphabet (1/6) or vice versa (6/1), e.g. with the initials A.F. or F.A.

From this, we generated our initial list, which we further narrowed down by cutting up the list of their names and choosing individual names from the list at random.



Daniel Dorff
Daniel Dorff
Donald Harris
Donald Harris
Andrew Frank
Andrew Frank
Alfred V. Fedak
Alfred V. Fedak
MSgt. Aldo Rafael Forte
MSgt. Aldo Rafael Forte