Water Music

Water Music is probably John Cage’s earliest musical performance work. The composer himself said of it: Unlike Handel, it really splashes. It was first performed in May 1952 by David Tudor at the New School for Social Research in New York City. The six-minute, forty-second long piece is for a pianist who has to use, in addition to the piano keyboard, a radio, a duck whistle, playing cards, water receptacles, a wooden rod and a stopwatch. The score, which has to be displayed in clear view of the audience, consists of altogether ten pages on which 41 different events are noted in detail (piano notes, radio frequencies, etc.) and provided with exact durations. The latter were precisely defined down to quarter seconds by flipping coins according to the I Ching. Cage’s use of everyday noises resembles the use of found objects by contemporary artists such as Robert Rauschenberg.


  • original Title: Water Music
  • Date: 5.1952
  • Duration: 6′40″
  • Genre: Musical score

This work is issued in following texts