Friday, August 22, 2008

John Cage's 4'33 - Art & Sound

"silence is the sound of life as we live it in real time. We just never stopped to listen before." - Holland Cotter


Dia:Beacon Two installations commemorating artists now gone: Tacita Dean’s is six films with Merce Cunningham, honoring John Cage’s “4’33””.


FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES ART REVIEW

"Oh So Quiet"
By HOLLAND COTTER
Published: August 21, 2008

Silence is the tough one... John Cage said it didn’t exist, not in this world, and illustrated the point in his famous composition “4’33,” ” first performed in 1952.

A musician with a stopwatch comes on stage, sits at a piano, more or less motionless, for 4 minutes 33 seconds, raising and lowering the keyboard cover to signal the beginning and end of movements.

Instead of music, or not-of-this-world silence, the audience hears itself: coughing, jangling, whispering, tittering and eventually, depending on the general mood, erupting into boos or applause...

A filmed variation on Cage’s score is playing this summer at Dia:Beacon; it’s well worth spending time with. It’s one of two Dia installations that, in very different ways, quietly commemorate artists now gone whose names have a magic ring to contemporary ears.
FULL ARTICLE

9 comments:

ross b said...

Doing my undergrad one of my classmates performed this for the class - I always felt it to be a valid performance piece.

I don't listen to 20th cent art music but I found it fascinating when studying it. Indigenous Aboriginal music too.

Steve said...

This reminds me of the classic vinyl album, "The Best of Marcel Marceau" - 40 minutes of silence (total of both sides) followed by a thunderous ovation. I remember seeing the marketing for it back in the '70s, and one of the features was that it could be embedded in a stack loaded in a record changer to create a 20-minute interlude of silence at a party.

Polydora said...

I like that idea, Steve. Oh the 70's, when silence could be comedic and also a party favorite!?

A friend emailed the following in response to this post:

"When John Cage wrote a "piano" piece consisting of 4 min 33 sec of absolute silence, Igor Stravinsky commented that he was 'looking forward to works of greater length from this composer'".

Made me laugh. Yet, in all seriousness, the piece isn't focused on the absence of musical composition; rather, its focus is the absence of silence as we have come to define it. It's a small spotlight in the darkness of our ignorance. Real silence is the procession of life in real time. And so maybe all those buddhists were right about "being present" in the moment. That silence is everywhere. All we have to do is find it and stay present with it.

ScaughtFive said...

Playing silence is the hardest part of making music. Charlie Watts can bust a fat daddy jam in the spaces he ain't though.

I got these dried flowers onna door.

Polydora said...

"Playing silence is the hardest part of making music."

I like that notion.

mahatma kane jeeves said...

scaughtie - i find that playing silence is not the hardest part of playing music - its when i put finger to fret that the problems begin

ross b said...

the piece isn't focused on the absence of musical composition; rather, its focus is the absence of silence as we have come to define it

it was a confronting piece to listen to...almost like an enforced meditation...there was a tight air of nervous, silent shuffling in the class...at the time i was wondering what quite to make of it all....I think i really need to hear it again!! ;)

Polydora said...

"scaughtie - i find that playing silence is not the hardest part of playing music - its when i put finger to fret that the problems begin"

Ah yes, for those of us not so talented as Mr. Scott, or Ross, I do see how this could be the case. I do so love your humor, Jeeves. It's delightful.

Polydora said...

"...at the time i was wondering what quite to make of it all"

Such has been my predicament since my birth, Ross. =)

heehee.