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Is 4'33" considered music?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Infernal Affair, Mar 6, 2008.

  1. In light of the whole "Is a DJ a musician?" thread, I decided to search and see if anyone's come up with this and couldn't find anything. This is probably a little more open for debate.

    Have any of you heard John Cage's composition 4'33"? If so, would you consider it music?
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    It is generally considered music because it is a written composition performed on piano.
  3. I would - but remember that 4'33" is a performance piece - the music is the reaction of the crowd (coughs, walking out, squeaking chairs, etc.) to the silence.
  4. bongomania

    bongomania Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    I would say that is not all the music is. The piece has been performed in open fields, near a highway, and in other locations that may not have audible audience noises, or where any "reactions" may not be audible. Sometimes what you hear is bees buzzing, or cars, or crowd noises that are oblivious to the performance.
  5. True - but the point is that it is the ambient noise (whether that be audience, or other - note the etc.) that is the music, not that which is (or in this case isn't) coming from the stage.
  6. Marcury

    Marcury High and Low

    Aug 19, 2007
    Mid Hudson Valley, NY
    Yes it is music. Cage was making a point that our perceptions limit what we think of a music or musical. He believed and practiced0 that any sounds could be used by a composer in a piece of music. By framing the piece with actions on the part of the performer and limiting the time frame of the performance he composed a piece of music which is made up of the environmental/ambient sounds which take place at the time and place of a given performance.
  7. I think you hit Cage's nail right on the head.

    I believe this is exactly what he was trying to achieve.

    Cage wanted to challenge what is considered music.
  8. Deluge Of Sound

    Deluge Of Sound Banned

    Nov 8, 2007
    Personally, I define music as "sound arranged in time," so 4'33" is a very interesting take on this definition. Because in music, the time in which you're not playing is just as important as the time that you are (or, in other terms, the balance between the notes and the rests). So, as much as I feel like Cage is doing a little bit of cheating, I have to liken it to the old story about the Surrealism Final:

    A Surrealism Professor has written his final exam, and the class is about to sit down and take it. He has told them that it is one essay, and that they will have the entire time to work on it. The students are nervous, because Surrealism is a vast subject and, by it's nature, not bound to any normal conventions, so this essay is sure to be headache inducing.
    It is the day of the test, the students have shown up with their pens and their bottles of Advil. The professor passes out the final: The one question is "Why?"
    When the dust had settled, there was one student who got an A+.
    His answer?
    "Why Not"

    And that is essentially what 4'33" is, a challenge to modern perceptions of music. Because it has a very strict time, it is a piece of music consisting entirely of rests. (even if I think it's a little obnoxious, myself)
  9. So who is the musician then?
  10. soong


    May 10, 2007
    Im studying Cage at the moment.
    It just finely crosses the line between music and philosophy.
    Its hard to define
  11. I would be hard pressed to call anything John Cage has done music.
  12. Ripper


    Aug 16, 2005
    im actually tempted to suggest this piece to my band leader for the spring concert
  13. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    There are quite a few people who would take this view. However, those who pay attention to Cage's message find that there is much more music in the world that one could ever imagine.

    Another way to think of it is to say that all the great composers in music history have left messages for us telling us what music is all about. Cage is unique among composers because he has left messages about what sound is all about. When you realize that all sound is music, the only thing you have to deal with is the composers ego.
  14. That was more a joke than anything. I admire his persistance, and some of the sounds/arrangements are very impressive.

  15. i could not have said it better myself. i actually just had a talk about this in an aesthetics class this evening, and this is almost exactly what i said, their piece was a frame for the ambient noises that truly encompassed the piece. it is music because he was making a statement, true minimalism at it's best. john cage said “There is no such thing as silence. Something is always happening that makes a sound."
  16. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    Art is music.
    Cage is Art.
    Cage is Music.
  17. It's just a shame he failed. This pretencious music about expanding limits of perception fails to recognise that there is no musicality involved, no performance, no organised sound. Nothing definable at all as music.
  18. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    I don't think he failed. What this piece does is expose the pretentiousness of a lot of compositions and performances. If you haven't read "Silence" and "A Year From Monday" (Cage's books on music and creativity) you should check them out, he really has an interesting POV concerning music and what it is, could be, and is becoming. Of course he doesn't lay that right out for the reader, its all in there and you have to dig for it... his books also offer a very intimate look at an interesting mind.

    Cage was very much into and influenced by Eastern philosophy. The 'I Ching' was a very important thing for him as was studying Buddism. From his reading and studies it is clear that he was very, very interested in removing the ego and the personality of the composer and performer. Whether or not one thinks that is a useful idea is not really the issue. By considering Cage's POV it is possible to get a clearer insite to Western music and how it is conceived and performed.

    I'm not saying that his POV was viable, or useable in todays music, but it is interesting and worth some consideration and thought. In step or out of step with the rest of the world, Cage did have a clear focus on what he wanted to say with his music and he did say it. (for those who listen)
  19. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Cage, and likewise Varese and Glass, certainly pushed the envelope with their compositions. Is it music? That depends on whether you liken it to the Emperor's New Clothes or not. The bottom line is that the composer considered it a musical piece, so I'd say yes.

    To quote my 20th Century Music professor (and bass instructor): "Silence is musical." I'd say there's a lot of modern music ignoring that idea. Just my opinion.
  20. Guiness recognizes the song, but for longest recorded silence, I think. (may be longest performed silence, not sure)

    And I believe it was written using musical symbols, so I guess I would have to say yes, however I almost feel like he found a loophole.

    I don't want to derail you, so I will start another thread re : Cage's As Slow As Possible, check it out if ya can.

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