Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Implications of Cage's 4' 33"

Rather like Rauschenberg's all-white painting of 1951, John Cage's silent musical composition of 1952, 4' 33", created art out of nothingness or emptiness. For Cage, the point (or one point) was that during a performance of the piece -- the pianist marks the beginning and ending of the four minute and thirty three second piece by opening and closing the keyboard cover -- the actual substance of the piece would be supplied by ambient sounds in the auditorium, including all the coughing emanating from increasingly nervous attendees. One of the great ideas in the history of modern music.

Question: Has anyone ever done a full concert of pieces composed by indicating arbitrary lengths of time? 5' 15"; 49' 42" and so on. Probably not. Because the main implication of the piece was in the idea of it. Any spinoff would be deemed mere copycatting, despite the differing lengths.

What's interesting is that there are infinite possibilities for such compositions. After all zero and infinity are two names for the same thing.

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