Cage - 4’33”

“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.” --John Cage “There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something to see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.” --John Cage When it comes to making something out of nothing, few pieces in Western music have been as controversial or polarizing as 4’33”, composed in 1952 by American composer John Cage, a champion of aleatoric music and experimentation. The piece was written for any number of performers in any combination of instruments, provided that for four minutes and thirty-three seconds their performance consists of virtual silence. However, that silence is often anything but. One of the intentions of the piece is that any sounds that may occur, whether it be a rustling program, squeaky chair, coughs, or even confused and agitated commentary, are all part of the performance experience. At a time when critics and audiences discussed the question of where contemporary music fit into the canon laid down by Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, Cage shattered all preconceptions by positing that any sound under any circumstance may be considered music. More than 60 years have passed—and this debate is far from over. There will always be vehement disagreements about what constitutes music (and art, for that matter), although the deeper and arguably more relevant question posed by 4’33” is about the role music plays in our society. We live in an age where boredom is instantly cured by smartphones, and life is simply faster, louder, and more complicated. Patience is a virtue on the verge of extinction, and distraction is the catch-all solution to our problems, serving our need for instant gratification. The simple act of sitting in relative silence is downright terrifying for some people, even for four and half minutes. When discussing the role of the composer, Cage remarked, “Our intention is to affirm this life, not to bring order out of chaos, nor to suggest improvements in creation, but simply to wake up to the very life we're living, which is so excellent once one gets one's mind and desires out of its way and lets it act of its own accord.” Cage’s Zen Buddhist beliefs shape an experience that is inherently inclusive for the audience, since they play just as important a role as the performers. For some this will be the zenith of what music aims to accomplish; for others it will be downright unbearable. Much of a listener’s reaction will depend on why he or she has come to the piece in the first place.

Artists Bt_info_artist Timotheos Petrin Bt_info_artist George Xiaoyuan Fu

Composers John Cage

Works 4'33"

Instruments Cello and Piano

Recorded Date 04-12-2015