John Cage’s Ten Rules


John Cage’s Ten Rules for Merce Cunningham’s dance studio has been making the rounds online this summer, so you may have already seen it, but for those of you haven’t come across it yet, I thought I’d repost it because it’s worth seeing!

Choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage were lifelong partners and collaborators – John Cage was the music director of Cunningham’s dance studio and had a profound influence on Cunningham.

I love these rules from John Cage for so many reasons.  I could go on and on.  But perhaps it’s better if I just let the rules speak for themselves.  Enjoy!


Merce Cunningham Studio, 55 Bethune St. NYC, NY 10014

10 Rules for Students and Teachers

From John Cage


Rule 1: Find a place you trust, and then, try trusting it for awhile.

Rule 2: (General Duties as a Student) Pull everything out of your teacher.  Pull everything out of your fellow students.

Rule 3: (General Duties as a Teacher) Pull everything out of your students.

Rule 4:  Consider everything an experiment.

Rule 5:  Be Self-Disciplined.  This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them.  To be disciplined is to follow in a good way.  To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

Rule 6:  Follow the leader.  Nothing is a mistake.   There is no win and no fail.  There is only make.

Rule 7:  The only rule is work.  If you work it will lead to something.  It is the people who do all the work all the time who eventually catch onto things.  You can fool the fans – but not the players.

Rule 8:  Do not try to create and analyze at the same time.  They are different processes.

Rule 9:  Be happy whenever you can manage it.  Enjoy yourself.  It is lighter than you think.

Rule 10: We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules, and how do we do that?  By leaving plenty of room for “x” qualities.

Helpful Hints:

Always be around.

Come or go to everything

Always go to classes.

Read everything you can get your hands on.

Look at movies carefully and often.

SAVE EVERYTHING.  It may come in handy later.


About Angela

French hornist Angela Cordell Bilger is a freelance chamber musician, orchestral player, and educator, primarily in the Philadelphia and New York City areas. She writes her blog with a special thought for her students who inspire the subjects raised here, and for all those looking to add a bit to their knowledge and experience of classical music.
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