“Four Minutes-Thirty Three Seconds” is a three-movement composition by American Composer John Cage. This composition is composed entirely of 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. Yes that’s right, pure silence. John Cage (1912-1992) was labeled as an experimental composer. A piece of music that is nothing but silence is going to draw some controversy. This famous piece of music, written in 1952, consists of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed. Although it is commonly perceived as “four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence, listeners of the piece will realize that many sounds are always happening. Conceived around 1947–1948, while the composer was working on Sonatas and Interludes, 4′33″ became for Cage the epitome of his idea that any sounds constitute, or may constitute, music. It was also a reflection of the influence of Zen Buddhism, which Cage studied since the late forties. In a 1982 interview, and on numerous other occasions, Cage stated that 4′33″ was, in his opinion, his most important work. Cage had hoped to make 3 basic points with 4’33”. The first point was to exploit the social regiments of modern concert etiquette. The only way to get a large group of people to sit still for 4 minutes and 33 seconds was to choose a concert hall where people were regulated by the concert hall etiquette. The second point made by 4′33″ concerns duration. According to Cage, duration is the essential building block of all of music. This distinction is motivated by the fact that duration is the only element shared by both silence and sound. As a result, the underlying structure of any musical piece consists of an organized sequence of time buckets. They could be filled with either sounds, silence or noise; where neither of these elements is absolutely necessary for completeness. The third point is that the work of music is defined not only by its content but also by the behavior it elicits from the audience.
So grab your guitar, ukulele, violin, or sit down at the piano and play 4 minutes and 33 seconds. This is the one song that you can play with absolutely no training whatsoever! If you have trouble playing this song then you might want to take a yoga class and learn to meditate rather than sign up for music lessons. After you’ve mastered 4 minutes and 33 seconds you’ll naturally want to learn more songs. Most other songs will contain quite a bit more sounds, or noises during it’s duration.
So tell us what you think. Should 4 minutes and 33 seconds be recognized as a major contribution to American Music?