Scope and Content of Collection
Title: John Cage Mycology Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1873-2003
Collection number: MS 74
15 boxes, 1 painting
University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library.
Special Collections and Archives
Santa Cruz, California 95064
Abstract: This collection includes books, correspondence, journals, newsletters, pamphlets, ephemera and realia related to Cage's interest
in the study of mushrooms.
Physical location: Stored in Special Collections & Archives: Advance notice is required for access to the papers.
Collection is open for research.
Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and
their heirs. For permission to publish or to reproduce the material, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
John Cage Mycology Collection. MS 74. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa
Gift of John Cage in 1971.
John Cage, justifiably famous as a composer, was also very much interested in mycology. 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.
"Coming back to the notion that my thought is changing. Say it isn't. One thing, however, that keeps it moving is that I'm
continually finding new teachers with whom I study. I had studied with Richard Buhlig, Henry Cowell, Arnold Schoenberg, Daisetz
Suzuki, Guy Nearing. Now I'm studying with N.O. Brown, Marshall McLuhan, Buckminster Fuller, Marcel Duchamp. In connection
with my current studies with Duchamp, it turns out that I'm a poor chessplayer. My mind seems in some respect lacking, so
that I make obviously stupid moves. I do not for a moment doubt that this lack of intelligence affects my music and thinking
generally. However, I have a redeeming quality: I was gifted with a sunny disposition."
A Year From Monday 1967
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.
Cage's personal reference library has been cataloged separately.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Graves, Morris, 1910-
Nearing, G.G. 1890-
John Cage's personal mycology reference library has been cataloged separately. It is available through the library's online
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