Kay Larson, author of Where the Heart Beats, on tour July 2012

Posted By on June 20, 2012

About Where the Heart Beats

• Hardcover:496 pages
• Publisher: The Penguin Press (July 5, 2012)

John Cage, one of the greatest American composers of the twentieth century, created music that defies easy explanation. His unique concerts consisted of notes chosen by chance, randomly tuned radios, and silence. In Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists, Kay Larson reveals what empowered Cage to compose his incredible music and what allowed him to inspire tremendous transformations in the lives of his fellow artists: his improbable conversion to Zen Buddhism. This is the story of how a composer of experimental music began a spiritual quest to know himself better and devise music in the service of his absolute conviction that art and life are one inseparable truth. His earnest inquiry touched thousands of lives and created controversies that are ongoing.

Where the Heart Beats is the first book to address the phenomenal importance of Zen Buddhism to the composer’s life and to the artistic avant-garde of the 1950s and 60s. Zen’s power to transform Cage’s troubled mind—by letting go of himself and showing him his own enlightened nature—liberated him from an acute personal crisis that threatened his life, his music, and his relationship with his life-partner, Merce Cunningham. Caught in a society that rejected his music, his politics, and his sexual orientation, Cage was transformed by Zen. He gained courage in his realization of the path out of suffering and went from an overlooked and somewhat marginal musician to the epicenter of the avant-garde.

Both an innovative biography and a ground-breaking cultural history of the American Century, Where the Heart Beats looks beyond Cage’s life to the individuals he influenced and the art he inspired. Cage crossed paths with Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Jasper Johns, Morton Feldman, Alan Kaprow, and Leo Castelli as young artists, who all went on to revolutionize their respective disciplines. As Cage’s story progresses, as his collaborators’ trajectories unfurl, Where the Heart Beats shows the blossoming of Zen in the very heart of American culture.

About Kay Larson

An acclaimed art critic, columnist, and editor, Kay Larson began her career in journalism in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at The Real Paper, then served as an associate editor at ARTnews and an art critic for the Village Voice. She was the art critic for New York magazine for fourteen years, and has been a frequent contributor to The New York Times. In 1994, she entered Zen practice at a Buddhist monastery in upstate New York. Though she has written for many types of publications, this is her first book.

Kay’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, July 3rd: M. Denise C.

Friday, July 6th: The Big City

Monday, July 9th: Musical Perceptions

Wednesday, July 11th: Planet Hugill

Friday, July 13th: The Closet Professor

Tuesday, July 17th: 108 Zen Books

Thursday, July 19th: Original Mind

Tuesday, July 31st: Buddha Chick Life

Friday, August 10th: Zen Pundit, part 2


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