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Looking for the Music in John Cage 4'33

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Looking for the music in John Cage’s “4.33”

John Milton Cage born in 1915 is one of the best known experimental composers of our time. Cage began to create music that broke the boundaries of form and structure. He had a strong belief that every sound should be considered as a form of music. By combining his theories of invention with his compositional techniques he led music into the modern world. Many music critics have suggested that Cage was more of an inventor rather than a composer. Speaking on Cage, Arnold Schoenberg (1994) states “Of course he's not a composer, but he's an inventor -- of genius” (Perloff & Junkerman, P 157).
Whether an inventor or composer, there is no denying that Cage’s composition “4.33” also known as “four and a half minutes of silence” has led to considerable controversy. It has also forced us to look closely at the definition of music. The 1952 piece, in which performer David Tudor sat at the piano for four minutes and thirty-three seconds marking off the time in three movements but did not play a single note, tested the idea that there is no such thing as silence. Cage (1988) claims that “Everything we do is music" and “try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.”(Kostelanetz, 1988, P69-70). I intend to examine “4.33” and determine whether it is possible for us to appreciate Cage’s ideology and hear the music in his favourite composition.

Cage was heavily influenced by the eastern philosophy and it taught him to perceive music in a whole new light. Cage’s idea for 4.33 however, emerged after his experience at Harvard University where he spent time in and anechoic chamber (a room designed to stop reflections of either sound or electromagnetic waves) and still found the sound inescapable. Also the influences from the “White Paintings”, a series of blank canvases by Robert Rauschenberg are understood to be the foundation of…...

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