Paik’s interest in avant-garde music was central to his experimental practice from a very early stage. He began working in music and performance while a student in Germany, where he came into contact with experimental composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and particularly John Cage, whom he first met at the International Summer Course for New Music in Darmstadt in 1958.
It was Cage who provided the impetus for Paik to incorporate chance and silence into his compositions. Paik soon began to organise and perform in concerts of avant-garde music, including his own Hommage à John Cage and Stockhausen’s Originale.
Paik’s first solo exhibition Exposition of Music – Electronic Television in 1963 was the culmination of his interdisciplinary experimentation to date. Notably, it included his first television works, which he had been developing in secret. Speaking later about these works, Paik said: ‘I did not consider myself a visual artist. But I knew there was something to be done in television and nobody else was doing it, so I said “Why not make it my job?”.’ Physical and electronic manipulations of cathode-ray tube monitors, as can be seen in Zen for TV, became his primary interests in this period.