1199: "Silence"

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San Fran Sam
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby San Fran Sam » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:32 pm UTC

The best performance of this piece i ever saw was by the Nairobi Trio.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby dp2 » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:37 pm UTC

Scorpio3002 wrote:Oh hey, a 4'33'' joke. How original.

Please tell us about how you were listening to John Cage before he sold out.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Klear » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:48 pm UTC

adanedhel728 wrote:I may very well be ruffling some feathers when I say this, but I've resisted the urge to post it in the comments section of any and all YouTube videos of someone "performing" this, because someone would rightly say that it's trolling. But, it's got to come out somewhere: 4'33" is the height of pretention. I feel like this is exactly the kind of thing that Bill Waterson had in mind when he mocked "avant-garde" art.

Ok, there, I've said it. If someone wants to dispute it, I don't really care.


I want to dispute that. I wanted you to know that.

gruene wrote:Wouldn't 4'33" be muffled coughing and people shifting uncomfortably in their chairs?


Yes, that's actually pretty much the point of the piece. Making a studio recording of it is a stupid idea.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby The Owl » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:58 pm UTC

This is one of the things I really love about xkcd. Once in a while, you come across a comic that seems to be intended exactly for someone with your knowledge and interests. The recent geology ones went right over my head, but this comic is right up my street. It feels like Randall knows something about absolutely everything!

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby communisteggplant » Mon Apr 15, 2013 4:05 pm UTC

<pedanticstatement>

Technically, 4'33" is not silence- it's the sounds that occur in the time frame bracketed as its performance. She doesn't need to be in a white cube, which in fact is not silent, assuming stick figures breathe and have beating hearts. Cage was interested in the fact that there is never absolute silence, and 4'33" is a way into exploring the sounds (not the silences) that occur all around us. One of my favorite lessons in teaching music appreciation is to "play" 4'33" for my students (after a night of intensive practicing) and have them be attuned to all the sounds happening in the classroom (nervous laughter, fidgeting, cell phones) and outside (people walking down the hall, practicing in nearby rooms, etc.) in my music department.

</pedanticstatement>

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Moose Anus » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:09 pm UTC

4'33'' is like that time when I forgot to do my assignment for art class so I submitted an invisible picture of a unicorn's castle. I got an F, and so should Cage.
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Cousj001 » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:10 pm UTC

It's just someone playing over the top of As Slow As Possible, as played by The Universe. We're currently 13.8 billion years into it.
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Роберт » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:20 pm UTC

Moose Anus wrote:4'33'' is like that time when I forgot to do my assignment for art class so I submitted an invisible picture of a unicorn's castle. I got an F, and so should Cage.

If you could have gotten a lot of people to hand you money for a chance to look at your art project, you'd be laughing in your teacher's face. So is Cage.
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby FourTael » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:24 pm UTC

Oh, John Cage, if only your art was born in the modern world of monochromatic wooden planks and piles of candy from which people are free to take as they please, you might have been more accepted for your brilliance.

Brilliance in getting people's money in exchange for feeding them BS.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby The Bus » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:37 pm UTC

davidhbrown wrote:
Klear wrote:I always wanted to go the a performance of 4'33 and start the applause a minute too early. Of course, that would be as much a part of the performance as anything.

Very true. A lot of people think of this "piece" as if it were a studio work consisting of digital zeros. An important aspect of it is for the audience to stop talking and pay attention to all of the incidental sounds that happen around them. The almost imperceptible rush of a the ventilation. The sound your throat and ears make as you swallow. A door closing in the lobby. Possibly even the ticking of your wristwatch.

If you like this sort of "music" that encourages you to not only hear but also perceive sounds you usually ignore, you can find similar recorded works. I don't listen to them often, but a few such albums I have include Christopher DeLaurenti's Favorite Intermissions (recordings of the intermissions of classical music concerts); and the compilations The Architecture of the Incidental and Psychogeographical Dip which are more deliberately constructed from found/environmental sounds. (These were published by the GD Stereo label which now sells through Pogus Productions. My relationship is only as a customer.)


That reminds me of this Simpsons joke:

Man: With your donation, you'll receive this classic PBS tote bag. [holds it up]

Betty White: Or this umbrella -- [opens it] featuring a picture of our classic tote bag.

Man: [holds up a CD] And the next twenty callers will get this album of museum noises. Now your music room can sound just like the Metropolitan Museum in New York. [we hear footsteps echo through a quiet hall, then a cough] Outstanding.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby meat.paste » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:37 pm UTC

Cousj001 wrote:It's just someone playing over the top of As Slow As Possible, as played by The Universe. We're currently 13.8 billion years into it.

You can give Beethoven's 9th stretched to 24 hours a whirl. It's up-tempo in comparison


I first learned about Cage's work a few weeks ago at a ranger talk at the bottom of the grand canyon. She had performed the piece by filling the stage with percussion instruments that tended to resonate with the surroundings and with each other. Sounds pretty cool to me.
Huh? What?

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby The Bus » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:42 pm UTC

FourTael wrote:Oh, John Cage, if only your art was born in the modern world of monochromatic wooden planks and piles of candy from which people are free to take as they please, you might have been more accepted for your brilliance.

Brilliance in getting people's money in exchange for feeding them BS.


Or, as I saw sold at an art fair once:

Modern Art = "Oh, I could've thought of that" + "Yeah, but you didn't"

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Mynameisonic » Mon Apr 15, 2013 5:54 pm UTC

Silence will fall when the question is asked.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby speising » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:04 pm UTC

never heard that before...

but, i seem to recall this composition already featured in an xkcd strip before?

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Jinxed » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:15 pm UTC

XTCamus wrote:
Angelastic wrote:
XTCamus wrote:4:33

*cough*

*shifting uncomfortably*

*resists a sneeze, then gives in*
also

9,995

P.S. 4'3" isn't music.
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Steve the Pocket » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:22 pm UTC

I'm one of those people who'll call bullshit on like 99% of modern art, but I can still appreciate the cleverness of things like 4'33" or The Treachery of Images. Apparently Cage wrote a revised version of the piece that called for microphones to be set up around the audience to amplify the ambient sound.

The RGOOMHM wrote:It's time that all musicians on this planet get sued by John Cage's lawyers for copyright infringement! All of those pirate bastards use samples from 4'33'' without paying royalties!

Heh. I used to have a Flash cartoon series about a local TV news team, and the top story in what would end up being the last episode was that Cage's estate had sued all the major film studios for a combined $1 billion, claiming that every film made in the last 50 years contains an uncredited copy of the song in the soundtrack.
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby ctdonath » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:31 pm UTC

adanedhel728 wrote:4'33" is the height of pretention.

Methinks it's the kind of thing which must happen when exploring the outer limits of a subject: the absurd must be evaluated in context of the discipline, identifying where boundaries occur and why. Looking for what happens as music is pared down to minimalism, someone had to cut down to nothing at all and look at what's there (the background noises, and the bare anticipation & reaction of the audience). Fine, that was interesting, it has been tried and documented by an authority in the field, done - now let's go back toward actually creating something interesting & worthwhile.

The first time it's done, it's not pretentious. Someone had to go there to find the boundary.
It's the subsequent attempts which are pretentious, claiming the novelty of the first attempt where it no longer applies.

P.S. 4'3" isn't music.

Cage was asking the question "where then is the line between is & isn't music?" via reducto ad absurdum.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby richP » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:35 pm UTC

Wow, that John Cage guy was pretty short...

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby boozledorf » Mon Apr 15, 2013 6:37 pm UTC

richP wrote:Wow, that John Cage guy was pretty short...

I dunno. 4'33" translates to 6'9". That's pretty tall, IMO.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby KarenRei » Mon Apr 15, 2013 7:05 pm UTC

San Fran Sam wrote:i want that app.


It's called SoundHound.

Now go have fun wasting half an hour and making yourself look like an idiot singing, whistling, and humming poorly into your phone ;)

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby gmalivuk » Mon Apr 15, 2013 7:58 pm UTC

Jinxed wrote:P.S. 4'33" isn't music.

I agree, just as a frame hung in the middle of an art gallery (or around a mirror) isn't a painting. However, both works are still art, in that they consist of things intentionally arranged in a way that invites being contemplated as art.
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Apr 15, 2013 7:59 pm UTC

4'33" is music in exactly the same way that Fountain is sculpture.

What makes it art is the presentation or reception of it as art.

That in itself doesn't make it good art. What makes it good art is the "message" it conveys, such as the feelings it evokes. If it conveys something well, and something good to convey, then it is good art. Disagreement about what is good to convey and whether a particular piece is effective at doing so gives "good art" its subjectivity.

The message that 4'33" and Fountain convey is "What makes it art is the presentation or reception of it as art." If it effectively conveyed that message to you and you think that's a good message to convey, then you'll think they are both good art. If they didn't convey that message to you effectively or you disagree with that message, then you'll probably think they're bad art, because they haven't many other redeeming qualities.
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby da Doctah » Mon Apr 15, 2013 8:25 pm UTC

Moose Anus wrote:4'33'' is like that time when I forgot to do my assignment for art class so I submitted an invisible picture of a unicorn's castle. I got an F, and so should Cage.

This response intentionally left blank.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby blowfishhootie » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:03 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:4'33" is music in exactly the same way that Fountain is sculpture.


What definition of sculpture excludes Fountain? It is easy to come up with a definition of music that is both practical and exclusive of 4'33".

What makes it art is the presentation or reception of it as art.


Agreed, but art and music are not synonyms. You seem to be using them interchangeably.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby ekolis » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:54 pm UTC

blowfishhootie wrote:Agreed, but art and music are not synonyms. You seem to be using them interchangeably.


They are not, but I would be hard pressed to find definitions that do not leave music defined as a subset of art.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Klear » Mon Apr 15, 2013 9:58 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:4'33" is music in exactly the same way that Fountain is sculpture.

What makes it art is the presentation or reception of it as art.

That in itself doesn't make it good art. What makes it good art is the "message" it conveys, such as the feelings it evokes. If it conveys something well, and something good to convey, then it is good art. Disagreement about what is good to convey and whether a particular piece is effective at doing so gives "good art" its subjectivity.

The message that 4'33" and Fountain convey is "What makes it art is the presentation or reception of it as art." If it effectively conveyed that message to you and you think that's a good message to convey, then you'll think they are both good art. If they didn't convey that message to you effectively or you disagree with that message, then you'll probably think they're bad art, because they haven't many other redeeming qualities.


Thanks for this post. I wanted to mention Duchamp in this context, though I didn't want to get sucked into this discussion, so thanks for doing it for me.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Adam H » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:05 pm UTC

My meager contribution to the discussion: 4'33" is art, not music.
-Adam

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby mittfh » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:55 pm UTC

Technically, 4'33" is music - just three movements of Tacit.

It's genre / style would perhaps be the ultimate example of ambient - the air con groaning, people coughing and sneezing, the traffic outside the concert hall, the really embarrassed person who forgot to put their phone on silent...

Meanwhile, here's a televised performance and one on a bus (there are some very creative covers of the piece on YouTube!)...

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Mikeski » Mon Apr 15, 2013 11:24 pm UTC

boozledorf wrote:
richP wrote:Wow, that John Cage guy was pretty short...

I dunno. 4'33" translates to 6'9". That's pretty tall, IMO.

I went to school with a girl who didn't like being six feet tall. So she'd say she was "five-twelve". Worked more often than you'd expect. ("Oh, wow, you're almost six foot!")

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby goofy » Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:00 am UTC

My favourite version of 4'33 is the Dictionaraoke version: music made from audio clips from talking dictionary. But sadly it's gone.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Apr 16, 2013 12:40 am UTC

blowfishhootie wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:4'33" is music in exactly the same way that Fountain is sculpture.

What definition of sculpture excludes Fountain?

I didn't intend to to exclude Fountain from sculpture. It's a three-dimensional art installation; that counts as sculpture enough to me. That it is "found art" doesn't affect that.

It is easy to come up with a definition of music that is both practical and exclusive of 4'33".

Perhaps, but I would disagree with them. 4'33" is an auditory work of art; that counts as music enough to me. The point of the analogy is that 4'33" is "found music" in the same way that Fountain is "found sculpture".

What makes it art is the presentation or reception of it as art.

Agreed, but art and music are not synonyms. You seem to be using them interchangeably.

Nope, I'm using art as a superset of music and sculpture (and a myriad other forms of art), and drawing attention to the similarities of the two pieces with respect to their media despite the great difference in those media. What the audience experiences in either case is just an ordinary thing that tool no special skill to produce, but was simply picked up from the surrounding environment; but presented in a context in a way intended to convey some sort of message. In both cases the message here is the question of where the boundaries of that particular medium lie.

I admit the analogy is not perfect, because every performance of 4'33" is different. If Cage had gone out and recorded some particular vulgar noise -- say, left a tape deck recording in a public restroom or something -- that would be more analogous to Fountain. Or an art installation which is just, say, a CCTV feed of the people viewing the installation, framed in a gallery, would be more analogous to 4'33". But the point is both stick something ordinary and otherwise uninteresting and present it in a context which raises an interesting question, becoming art in their respective media, namely music and sculpture.
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:02 am UTC

mittfh wrote:Technically, 4'33" is music - just three movements of Tacit
Then what, technically, constitutes "music"? Because I have not come across anyone who takes seriously the notion that it is, for example, all and only those things which can be written down as some combination of standard Western musical notation.

Pfhorrest wrote:
It is easy to come up with a definition of music that is both practical and exclusive of 4'33".
Perhaps, but I would disagree with them. 4'33" is an auditory work of art; that counts as music enough to me.
So a nice bit of (spoken) rhetoric is also music? It could definitely be an auditory work of art, after all.

I think that being auditory art may be necessary for music, but is no more sufficient for it than being visual art is sufficient for painting or sculpture.
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby AUS » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:09 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
mittfh wrote:Technically, 4'33" is music - just three movements of Tacit
Then what, technically, constitutes "music"? Because I have not come across anyone who takes seriously the notion that it is, for example, all and only those things which can be written down as some combination of standard Western musical notation.

Not to distract from your actual question, but here's a distraction! Does it matter what does or does not fall under the definition of the word 'music' ? Does something being labled as music or as something else-ish take away or give it an intrinsic something-ish? I would say no, and my thesis concludes with who cares if it's music?

Oh. Seems you care. Well....Is it music? Hell if I know.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Apr 16, 2013 1:14 am UTC

AUS wrote:Does it matter what does or does not fall under the definition of the word 'music' ?
Given how angrily some people deny that certain works are "really" music or art or good or bad or whatever, evidently yes.
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby dudiobugtron » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:06 am UTC

I'd never heard of 4'33" before, nor John Cage. Post-googling, I still think my original interpretation was better. Or, should I say, slightly worse. ;)
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby communisteggplant » Tue Apr 16, 2013 2:28 am UTC

Steve the Pocket wrote:
The RGOOMHM wrote:It's time that all musicians on this planet get sued by John Cage's lawyers for copyright infringement! All of those pirate bastards use samples from 4'33'' without paying royalties!

Heh. I used to have a Flash cartoon series about a local TV news team, and the top story in what would end up being the last episode was that Cage's estate had sued all the major film studios for a combined $1 billion, claiming that every film made in the last 50 years contains an uncredited copy of the song in the soundtrack.


It already happened: http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/74099/musician-settles-suit-on-silent-piece

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Bloopy » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:00 am UTC

If I can appreciate something as music, then it fits my definition of music. I don't have a pianist handy to perform 4'33'', but I do have an MP3 of it for when I'm in the mood.

I'd like to see it performed in outer space, alongside a piece that's normally audible. 8-) Have one microphone dangling above the keyboard and one inside the performer's space suit.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby ucim » Tue Apr 16, 2013 3:32 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:So a nice bit of (spoken) rhetoric is also music?
Well, the Geographical Fugue certainly counts. It's actually pretty wonderful. Rap music also counts, though I don't find most of it very appealing.

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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby ahammel » Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:10 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
AUS wrote:Does it matter what does or does not fall under the definition of the word 'music' ?
Given how angrily some people deny that certain works are "really" music or art or good or bad or whatever, evidently yes.
Fun time activity: go to a classical music forum and mention Arnold Schoenburg (or John Cage, for that matter).
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Re: 1199: "Silence"

Postby Davidy » Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:13 am UTC

amulshah7 wrote:Also, somewhat related, but here's the shortest song ever written (they even made a video for it) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Z1IGjr2cT0

I defy anyone to hum the tune or recite the words of that.

The actual shortest song is the eponymous "The Shortest Song in the World" http://youtu.be/X30l7A8-BRM
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