Everybody’s Cage

Documentary, Music
documentary, music
About This Project

2015 | 79 min. | SUBs EN, DE

The polyphonic arpeggio of children’s voices from the playground across the street, impatient machines blowing their horns in a traffic jam a few blocks down. As wheels are rumbling and buzzing on the pavement, every once in a while a street musician lets his bebop tune sail along. And all around, yet hard to catch, the continuous atmosphere of the city – a deep hum resembling the string bass in Wagner’s Rheingold overture: This is the acoustic setting at Washington Square Park, New York, starting point of the musical test assembly of the movie “Everybody’s Cage”.

This manifold music shows itself so well proportioned; it seems hard to believe coincidence shall have been its composer. In his 1963 “Variations IV”, John Cage builds a framework to let us rediscover hearing. As we join the Luxembourgian pianist Francesco Tristano walking along a complex network of places and references in Brooklyn and Manhattan, we see the traditional idea of the division of work between composer, interpreter and audience being put upside down. In doing so, the greatest creative force in the process lies within the listener’s imagination.

In “Everybody’s Cage”, German film artist Sandra Trostel turns John Cage and his approach to art into a tangible fascination, without giving in to explain just a single bit of it. Following the young European Francesco Tristano, who facilely walks the line between classic, modern and pop music, they meet Bruce Brubaker, US avantgarde luminary from New York, or team up with the German techno trio Brand Brauer Frick to search for John Cage’s footmark in club music beats. And yet, this meticulously designed film project gets the closest to John Cage when it is adrift, just to meet and catch the most important protagonist by chance: A New York cab driver, who never heard the name “Cage” before, but is convinced that the sound of the universe awaits him in the bright centre of meditation anyway.

It is easy to immerse oneself in this cinematic composition of coincidence, in which the camera provides the framework to understand John Cage’s approach to space, sound and silence. A music picture where everything magically falls into place, intentionally following curiosity to gently guide us towards a new sense of hearing.

Summer, 2015 – a message from the filmmaker

There is very little space for purposeless thought and activity in today’s highly efficient, tightly scheduled life routines. John Cage’s special perspective on social and philosophical issues made me realize how fruitful and inspiring it can be to explore structures by just taking them in, not only in art, but in all aspects of life. So in retrospect my last 4 years have not just been filled with work on an interesting movie, encountering John Cage was a actually liberating experience. If, as the buddhists say, “the mind is a restless monkey”, EVERYBODY’S CAGE is an invitation to drink some water and listen to the sounds of the jungle.


When John Cage (1912-1992), one of the most influential composers of New York’s 20th century avant-garde, was asked to summarize himself in a nutshell, he said humorously: „Get out of whatever cage you‘re in.“ Cage scrutinized the underlying principles of the arrangements in music and society systematically. He developed musical forms free of hierarchy and traditional relations on the base of social and philosophical questions – on education, work, government, the process of inner development, on the freedom of movement of a society and its individuals. His compositions are independent from judgmental structures and the individual taste of the composer.

with: Francesco Tristano, Bruce Brubaker, Liaquat Kahn, Brand Brauer Frick, 

Producer, Director, Editor: Sandra Trostel

Camera: Lilli Thalgott, Sandra Trostel

Sound Mixer: Jonas Hummel

Sound Design & Additional Score: Thies Mynther

Color Grading: Tim Liebe

Re-Recording Mixer: Michael Riedmiller, André Stiebe


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