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John Cage Ephemera

Identifier: Cage ephemera

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The John Cage Ephemera Collection is wide-ranging in scope, including correspondence, photographs, writings, programs, scores, books, artworks, artifacts, and audio and audiovisual recordings. The Ephemera Collection was originally housed in 6 metal filing cabinets with little original order. A few items obtained from other sources have been added to this collection in later years, and are documented in the Immediate Source of Acquisitions note.

Most of the collection is not Cage's own work, except for materials advertising his work being performed or exhibited, and some scores, writings, performance materials, and correspondence. A sizable amount of material in the collection was sent to Cage by mail, either for promotion or unsolicited work for perusal. Material promoting performances of Cage's own work and Cage's own writings or works are notated accordingly in series titles and container lists. The non-Cage items can provide some context of the type of work that was going on at the time, and a glimpse into what other contemporaries chose to share with him. Many items have been personalized by the sender (inscribed, sent with a letter, note written on item, etc). Names of those senders have been indicated in Scope and Content notes at the folder level in the container list to facilitate searching.

The collection is arranged into 11 series:

The Correspondence series often references enclosures that have become separated, and that may be found elsewhere in the collection (such as programs).

Materials in the Photographs series often rely on dates on photographs which might not reflect the date taken but the date developed. Dates are also approximated based on dates written on original folders. Some photographs seem to be enlarged versions of originals already in the collection, but no date for the later prints exist. Photographs may be found within other series, like correspondence.

The Cage projects and personal materials series include scores, performance materials, writings, personal and biographical materials, and awards sub-series. The scores include those with Cage’s markings or unpublished realizations of Cage’s works. Of note are mock-ups of Cage’s realization of Christian Wolff’s For 6 or 7 players. Performance materials include notes and plans for performances, performance reports, research, and correspondence. Writings include notebooks, drafts, edited drafts, handwritten notes, and some photocopied writings, all by Cage or with Cage’s notes or markings. Personal materials include personal ephemera, art by Cage, and Cage family materials. Awards are primarily certificates but include some other pieces like invitations or artifacts found with the awards.

The Programs and events series makes up the largest series in the collection. Programs and events include programs, invitations, flyers, brochures, schedules, press releases, exhibition catalogs, posters, newsletters, announcements, and other materials that represent or were produced for or to advertise events, both professional and personal. Some materials in this series have personal notes, memos, or drawings written on or included with them, by Cage or others.

The “Cage and Cunningham” sub-series of the Programs and events series also includes some non-event materials such as promotional materials, publishers’ advertisements, and Cunningham Dance Foundation internal schedules and communications. The “Cage and Cunningham” designation refers to any performance of a work by Cage or Cunningham, not only performances involving Cage and/or Cunningham themselves. Notable in the Cage and Cunningham sub-series is a 1942 Manhattan telephone directory (box 92), in which various clippings and programs have been glued. Some items inserted between have been removed from the directory and stored in folders within the same box, but the page numbers retained. Other early Cage and Cunningham program and event materials can be found in the John Cage Scrapbook collection. There is rarely proof that an event was attended by Cage, only that he was sent notification or an invitation.

The Articles and clippings series includes newspaper and magazine clippings, offprints, reprints, photocopies of published articles or book chapters, and press collected for promotional purposes or by publicists (not only about Cage).

The Art and artifacts series includes 3-dimensional artifacts and art pieces, as well as various drawings and small artists’ books.

The Writings series is made up of unpublished or draft works, theses and dissertations, and typescript writings for which no publication information was available. Some scores and writings sent to Cage are personally dedicated or inscribed to him with evidence of a working relationship; others may have been unsolicited submissions. An attempt was made to keep correspondence relating to submitted materials with the materials themselves.

The General promotional files and ephemera series includes collected advertisements such as publishers’ and recording companies’ advertisements, announcements, catalogs, order forms and other companies’ sales catalogs or announcements of items for sale. It also includes individuals’ and organizations’ (or their representatives) promotional and administrative materials, such as project proposals, newsletters, announcements, fundraising materials, competition/call for scores announcements, residencies, applications, classes and schedules, internal administrative materials, resumes, press kits, and letters of introduction. Some general ephemeral materials finish the series.

Because of the volume of material in this collection, similar types of materials found in the “General Promotional” series may also be found within the “Programs and Events” series. Newsletters and certain periodicals may also appear in both the “Books and Periodicals” and “Programs and Events” series. Researchers would be advised to check both series if looking for specific promotional material or periodicals.

Books and periodicals include materials that are inscribed, that include personalized letters or notes, or pre-publication proof copies. Any inscriptions or markings are described in notes at the folder level.

Scores include inscribed or marked musical scores as well as instructions for performance. As with books and periodicals, any inscriptions or markings are described in notes at the folder level. Publication information has been included when available, and available instrumentation for unpublished or self-published works given in notes.

Recordings include both audio and video materials. All open-reel tapes (except Box 152, items 22-26) have been digitized and a selection of audiocassettes and video materials have been digitized and are listed in the container list. The remainder of the recordings are currently unavailable pending curator appraisal.


  • 1912-2002


Conditions Governing Access

Available for research use. Contact McCormick Library Reading Room staff at or 847-491-3635 for access to digitized materials, which are restricted to Northwestern students, faculty and staff, and by other researchers on site.


156 Boxes (Boxes 1-154, 151A, 152A)

30 folders (30 oversize folders (stored in map cases))

Language of Materials



The John Cage Ephemera Collection is wide-ranging in scope and includes correspondence, photographs, writings, programs, scores, books, artworks, artifacts, and audio and audiovisual recordings. Most of the collection is not Cage's own work, except for materials advertising his work being performed or exhibited, and some scores, writings, performance materials, and correspondence.

Arrangement Note

The Correspondence series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, and physically arranged by date.

The Photographs series is arranged chronologically, with larger materials housed separately.

The Cage projects and personal materials series is arranged into 5 sub-series: Scores (Cage or realizations and transcriptions of Cage), Performance materials, Writings, Cage personal materials, and Awards. All sub-series are arranged alphabetically except Writings, which is chronological.

The Programs and events series is arranged into 4 sub-series: Cage and Cunningham programs and events, Oversize Cage and Cunningham programs and events, Non-Cage programs and events, and Oversize non-Cage programs and events. Within these sub-series materials are arranged chronologically.

The Articles and clippings series is arranged chronologically.

The Art and artifacts series is arranged by size and alphabetically by author/artist/sender.

The Writings (Non-Cage) series is arranged alphabetically by author.

The General promotional materials and ephemera series is arranged chronologically by type of material.

The Books and periodicals and Scores series are arranged alphabetically by author/composer.

The Recordings series is arranged by format and then alphabetically by title.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Collection donated by John Cage and the John Cage Trust.

The following items were donated or purchased and were incorporated into the collection:

Donated in 1993 by Pomona College: 4 Pomona Today issues (periodicals series), 1 Pomona College Centennial program (programs series), 2 Metate Pomona College yearbooks (box 127).

Donated in 2001-2002 by David Eisenman: HPSCHD tunic/t-shirt transfer, photocopies of original HPSCHD posters by Gary Viskupic and Calvin Sumsion (in Oversize Cage and/or Cunningham programs and events series).

Purchased in Oct. 2009 from Roger A. Wicker, Turtle Island Book Shop. Dealer description: “San Francisco: Fort Mason Conference Center. ‘Cage Memorial: A Farewell Tribute to John Cage’ September 5, 1992. Large poster/program, printed on both sides” (Box 125, Folder 1).

Related Materials

Northwestern University also holds the John Cage Correspondence, Correspondence Addenda, Scrapbooks, and Notations Collections, as well as music manuscripts cataloged separately and added to the Music Library’s General Manuscripts Collection.

Wesleyan University’s John Cage Papers relate to his published writings. The University of California, Santa Cruz, holds the John Cage Mycology Collection.

Separated Materials

Approximately 1 linear foot of duplicate or extraneous materials were discarded. Unmarked books and scores were separated and evaluated for inclusion in rare or circulating collections.

Non-Cage recordings and unmarked periodicals are being evaluated for inclusion in rare or circulating collections.

Lists of all book, score, periodical, and recording titles prior to separation are available electronically and in Box 147, Folder 11.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Mimi Head, Gary Strawn, and Jill Waycie in 2015. Materials were rehoused and a rough arrangement was created based on material type and loosely by year as labeled on the file drawers. The finding aid reflecting this initial processing has been preserved as a pdf.

More detailed processing was completed by Jill Waycie, 2019-2021.

Guide to the John Cage Ephemera
Jill Waycie
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Library Details

Part of the Music Library Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US