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JOHN CAGE TRIBUTE: Stephen Vitiello

Stephen Vitiello on John Cage:My initial introduction to the work of John Cage came through knowing and working for Nam June Paik.

Study for Graphic Score

Odyssey Guitar Solo (Without the Guitar) from CD, Bright and Dusty Things (2001)

Three field recordings (gate, birds, beetles) from a project at the Salina Art Center, Salina, KS (2012)



My initial introduction to the work of John Cage came through knowing and working for Nam June Paik. Before I had listened to Cage’s music or read his books and interviews, watched films and videos, what I knew was Paik’s admiration and what existed in Paik’s tapes – Cage smiling, a film of mushroom hunting and Cage performing 4’33” at Harvard Square and on the streets of NY.

As many threads as I can tie in what I do, and hope to do, back to Cage, a lot of the inspiration has come from the aura projected in those images. I think of his passion and belief in listening and staying open to the world and to what may come. I’ve always been inspired by Cage’s works that amplify the sounds of small objects (Cartridge Music) as well as David Tudor’s (Rainforest IV). I also think of my interest in field recording as tracing back to 4’33” but also to the video of Cage hunting for mushrooms.

A grad student alerted me to this quote the other day,”You can stay with music while you’re hunting mushrooms. It’s a curious idea perhaps, but a mushroom grows for such a short time and if you happen to come across it when it’s fresh it’s like coming upon a sound which also lives a short time.” (in Conversing with Cage)

I’m submitting two pieces here. The first is from my CD, Bright and Dusty Things (2001) which incorporates the use of photocells to amplify frequencies of light. The great Pauline Oliveros is also playing accordion on the track. Next, some recent field recordings from a project at the Salina Art Center, in Salina, KS. The timing of the three hopefully doesn’t cross any lines of copyright.

Stephen Vitiello, Study for Graphic Score


Odyssey Guitar Solo (Without The Guitar).mp3 from CD, Bright and Dusty Things (2001)

Three Field Recordings (Kansas, gate, birds, beetles).mp3  from a project at the Salina Art Center, Salina, KS (2012)


Stephen Vitiello is a sound and media artist. Vitiello’s sound installations have been presented internationally, including the 2002 Whitney Biennial, the 2006 Biennial of Sydney, at the Cartier Foundation, Paris and site-specific projects on the High Line in NYC and at MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA.

CD releases include Bright and Dusty Things (New Albion Records), Listening to Donald Judd (Sub Rosa), The Gorilla Variations (12k) and Box Music (12k). In 2011, Australian TV (ABC-TV) produced and broadcast a 30-minute documentary, Stephen Vitiello: Listening With Intent).

Since 1989, Vitiello has collaborated with numerous artists and musicians including Tony Oursler, Julie Mehretu, Steve Roden, Pauline Oliveros, Taylor Deupree and Ryuichi Sakamoto. Grants and awards include Creative Capital (2006) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011-2012).

Originally from New York, Stephen is now based in Richmond, VA where he is an Associate Professor of Kinetic Imaging at Virginia Commonwealth University.

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