Booklist has given a starred review to Beautiful Noise: The Music of John Cage (Anne Schwartz Books), by Lisa Rogers. Illus. by Il Sung Na.
This appealing picture book takes on the daunting task of introducing avant-garde composer John Cage to young audiences. Rogers eschews most biographical information, instead asking a series of child-friendly questions designed to convey a sense of Cage and his style. “What if . . . / all the sounds you heard . . . // a garbage truck screeching / feet skipping / pigeons scattering / tires whispering / cats hissing / children giggling // . . . sounded to you like music? Then you’d be like John Cage.” She describes his unorthodox musical notation style (curlicues, dots, and smudges), his compositions that relied on ambient sound (4’33”), and pieces that employed unusual instruments (blenders, washing machines, etc.). Na’s whimsical illustrations vibrantly convey the cacophony present in many Cage compositions. Employing a vocabulary of images (squiggles, slashes, lines) representing sounds and emotions identified on the endpapers, Na clearly represents the unique and experimental nature of Cage’s work. Many scenes portray cityscapes and crowded concert halls. Blues and grays predominate, although Na effectively uses explosions of intense color to represent some sounds. With back matter that includes sources, notes from the author and illustrator, and a bit more about Cage and his techniques, this makes a good introduction to Cage and a reminder that hearing things differently can be a very good thing. — Kay Weisman
The book will be published October 10, 2023. Preorder it here