Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Cage (John) Mycology collection
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access Restrictions
  • Use Restrictions
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Separated material
  • Processing Information

  • Contributing Institution: University of California, Santa Cruz
    Title: John Cage Mycology collection
    Creator: Cage, John
    source: Cage, John
    Identifier/Call Number: MS.074
    Physical Description: 15.5 Linear Feet 15 boxes, 1 painting
    Date (inclusive): 1873-2003
    Date (bulk): 1950-1995
    Abstract: This collection includes books, correspondence, journals, newsletters, pamphlets, ephemera and realia related to Cage's interest in the study of mushrooms.
    Language of Material: English

    Access Restrictions

    Collection is open for research.

    Use Restrictions

    Copyright for the items in this collection is owned by the creators and their heirs. Reproduction or distribution of any work protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires permission from the copyright owner. It is the responsibility of the user to determine whether a use is fair use, and to obtain any necessary permissions. For more information see UCSC Special Collections and Archives policy on Reproduction and Use.

    Preferred Citation

    John Cage Mycology Collection. MS 74. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of John Cage in 1971.


    John Cage was an American composer and music theorist, as well as an amateur mycologist. He was born in Los Angeles on the 5th of September, 1912. He attended Pomona College, but dropped out after two years and headed to Europe. In 1930, while still in Paris, Cage became interested in both modern music and modern painting. Soon he left and went to Mallorca, where he began painting and writing music himself. The following year he returned to California, settling in at Pacific Palisades. While writing music for the piano, he met Richard Buhlig, who was the first pianist to play the Opus II of Schoenberg. Though Buhlig was not a teacher of composition, he agreed to help Cage with writing music. From Buhlig he went to Henry Cowell [1933-34] and, at Cowell's suggestion, to Adolph Weiss in preparation for studies with Arnold Schoenberg. In order to work with Schoenberg, he gave up painting and concentrated on music.
    After two years Cage became an assistant to the film maker Oskar Fischinger, while doing library research work. He married Xenia Andreyevna Kashevaroff, a student of the bookbinder Hazel Dreis. By 1937 he had found a group of modern dancers who were interested in his music and could put it to use, resulting in his move to Seattle, where he was given a job as a dance accompanist at the Cornish School. Within a couple of years Cage and his wife moved back south to San Francisco, and then in 1941 they moved to Chicago, where he joined the faculty of Moholy Nagy's School of Design in Chicago. While there he was commissioned to write the sound effects music for a CBS Columbia Workshop Play. He was told by the sound effects engineer that anything he could imagine was possible. What he wrote, however, was impractical and too expensive; and the work had to be rewritten for percussion orchestra, copied, and rehearsed in the few remaining days and nights before its broadcast. The play, incidentally, was The City Wears a Slouch Hat by Kenneth Patchen. In 1942 Cage and his wife Xenia moved to New York, where within a couple of years he began working with Merce Cunningham. He and Xenia were divorced in 1945.
    In the late 1950's Cage taught occasionally at New York's New School for Social Research. It was during that time that he met Guy Nearing, who was to become his mentor in the study of mushrooms and other wild edible plants. With three other friends they founded the New York Mycological Society. In 1964 Cage was given the North American Mycological Association's Award for Contributions to Amateur Mycology, which is "given annually to recognize a person who has contributed extraordinarily to the advancement of amateur mycology." It was, however, through Cage's enthusiasm for the work of English master gardener Alan Chadwick and his "Student Garden Project" on the new campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz that Special Collections received his "collection of mushroom books and mushroomiana".
    John Cage died in New York City on August 12th, 1992.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    This collection includes a small amount of biographical material, some miscellaneous music programs, incoming correspondence, journals, newsletters, pamphlets, books, artwork, ephemera and realia is all related to mushrooms and mushroom collecting.

    Separated material

    John Cage's personal mycology reference library has been cataloged separately. It is available through the library's online catalog.
    The "Mushroom Ear Phones - "Para Oir El Bosque" from Adolf Schosser, Galeria de Arte Buades, Claudio Coello 43 Madrid" have been de-accessioned due to mold growth. Photocopies of the "Mushroom Ear Phones" are available in Box 9:16

    Processing Information

    Processed by UCSC OAC Unit. Completed April 2007.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Chadwick, Alan, 1909-1980
    Graves, Morris, 1910-2001
    Nearing, G. G. (George Guy), 1890-1986
    Cage, John