One of the most influential composers of the 20th century and a leading figure in the post-war avant-garde, John Cage was a music theorist, writer, and artist, as well as a composer. His most famous piece, 4â33â (1952), consisted of musicians doing nothing but listening to the sounds in a room for the duration of 4 minutes and 33 seconds. For Cartridge Music (1960), he amplified small household objects in a live performance. Influenced by Indian philosophy, Zen Buddhism, and Duchampâs readymades, Cage championed chance procedures in music, incorporating found sounds, noise, and alternative instruments into his compositions. Two important early collaborators were the painter Robert Rauschenberg and the dancer Merce Cunningham, who was also his romantic partner for most of their lives. Cage published his first book, Silence, in 1961 and, in the 1970s, began to transform literary works, including those of Joyce and Thoreau, into music.