4’33”

In John Cage’s 1952 piece 4’33”, the performer is instructed NOT to play his/her instrument for the duration of the piece. Here are some images from the score. The musical term “tacet” is an instruction to the performer to keep his/her instrument silent.

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Cage specified that 4’33” could be played by any instrument or combination of instruments. Here are some performances.

Solo piano:

Orchestra with violin soloist:

Death metal band:

Beatbox:

Cat:

John Cage, who was a longtime practitioner of Zen Buddhism, wrote:

There are two principal parts of each personality: the conscious mind and the unconscious, and these are split and dispersed, in most of us, in countless ways and directions. The function of music, like that of any other healthy occupation, is to help to bring those separate parts back together again. Music does this by providing a moment when, awareness of time and space being lost, the multiplicity of elements which make up an individual become integrated and he is one.

In 1989, Cage told an interviewer:

No day goes by without my making use of that piece [4’33”] in my life and in my work. I listen to it every day . . . I turn my attention toward it. I realize that it’s going on continuously . . . More than anything else, it’s the source of my enjoyment of life . . . it leads out of the world of art into the whole of life.

What do you think he meant?

You can download the 4′ 33″ app from johncage.org and create and post your own “performance.”

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