John Cage started mushroom hunting in the early 1950s in Stony Point, New York and very quickly became a self-taught expert in mycology.
Initially, mushroom hunting was a way of gaining some much needed privacy and thinking time. But mycology (as the study of mushrooms is called) also provided the composer with a discipline that was not to be found in his music.
Identifying a mushroom that was entirely safe to eat – that didn’t make you ill – required research and care.
“I was involved with chance operations in music, and I thought it would be a very good thing if I got involved in something where I could not take chances,” said Cage.
Cage once appeared on an Italian quiz show answering questions about mushrooms and won a substantial amount of money. He regularly gave classes in mushroom identification and was a founding member of the New York Mycological Society.