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         The History and The Culture of Chess

The Imagery of Chess -Surrealism and Chess
July 2007

Xenia (Andreyevna Kashevaroff) Cage
(August 15, 1913 - September 26, 1995)




The John Cage Quintet

Rear (men) : Lou Harrison, John Cage
Front (women) : Doris Dennison, Margaret Jansen, Xenia Cage

When Xenia and I [John Cage, they were married from 1935-1945] came to New York from Chicago, we arrived in the bus station with about twenty-five cents. We were expecting to stay for a while with Peggy Guggenheim and Max Ernst. Max Ernst had met us in Chicago and had said, “Whenever you come to New York, come and stay with us. We have a big house on the East River.” I went to the phone booth in the bus station, put in a nickel, and dialed. Max Ernst answered. He didn’t recognize my voice. Finally he said, “Are you thirsty?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Well, come over tomorrow for cocktails.”
I went back to Xenia and told her what had happened. She said, “Call him back. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose.” I did. He said, “Oh! It’s you. We’ve been waiting for you for weeks. Your room’s ready. Come right over.”


Time Magazine, July 29, 1940

Close-cropped, 28-year-old John Cage once studied for the ministry, looks like a Westerner's idea of a typical Yale boy. His percussion group is made up of pupils from the Mills summer session, where he teaches, but there are exceptions: suitcase-slapping Russell, a hot-jazz authority, composer and member of the Red Gate Chinese Shadow Players; Lou Harrison, 23-year-old composer and Mills faculty member; Russian-born Xenia Cage, his wife. Asked how long they had been wed, Cage quipped: "Five years, but I didn't begin practicing percussion on her until after we married."

Time Magazine, Feb. 22, 1943

Percussionist Cage, 30, is firmly convinced that percussive noise poems will bulk large in the musical future. Says he: "People may leave my concerts thinking they have heard 'noise,' but will then hear unsuspected beauty in their everyday life. This music has a therapeutic value for city dwellers. . . ." Born in Los Angeles, Cage was trained for the ministry, gave up the Church to study the piano in Europe. His steadfast fellow percussionist is his blonde wife Xenia Cage, surrealist sculptress, daughter of a Russian Orthodox priest. She helps Cage find his instruments of "unsuspected beauty" in junk yards and hardware stores.
He considers her the deftest of all living flowerpot and gong whackers.

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