John Cage

When being assigned to research John Cage, I knew it was going to be a learning experience. This linked proved just that.
While reading, I was intrigued by the audience’s reaction to listening to 4’33”. Cage himself said “People began whispering to one another, and some people began to walk out. They didn’t laugh — they were just irritated when they realized nothing was going to happen, and they haven’t forgotten it 30 years later: they’re still angry.”

4’33”s performance was considered ‘going too far’ for some people. But surely watching a man sit still in front of a piano for nearly 5 minutes isn’t that traumatic. Right?

Curious to see how the audience responded to this piece, I went onto Youtube to watch a live performance. I was expecting to see the audience’s facial reactions, but unfortunately this video only showed the ‘performer’ of the piece, so I proceeded to read the comments below.

I was baffled by all the hatred directed at this piece, but I read on, looking for any comment that would stick out to me. Besides the hate comments, I also read a lot of funny comments, such as “The best moment was at 2:08.” These comments lead me to believe that the audience just didn’t understand the reasoning behind this piece, which, in turn lead me to wonder why?

Why was the piece not explained to the audience before it occurred? There would still be sound music right? Why not just tell them and avoid all this frustrated confusion?

But then again, how would you explain this piece anyways? What would you say? John Cage studied sound. He visited an anechoic chamber at Harvard University in order to hear silence- but never did not accomplish that objective. He heard two sounds, his nervous system and his blood circulating.”Try as we may to make a silence, we cannot,” he wrote. And that’s what he wanted to show while playing 4’33”.

From talking to an Indian girl about the purpose of music, to studying Buddhism for eighteen months, John Cage constantly found questions and answers regarding sounds and silence. He was not the ‘creator’ of 4’33”, but merely a contender.


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