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In 2002, [John] Cage’s publishers launched a plagiarism suit against British musician Mike Batt, who had included a one-minute silence on an album by his rock group, The Planets. Batt agreed to pay an undisclosed six-figure sum to the John Cage Trust.

Is that gold or is that gold?

The big news is that John Cage’s brilliant silent composition, “4’33,” is being aired on BBC radio and television. That’s awesome. Between this and the business last year about freeing the BBC archives, can you find a more revolutionary broadcaster? I say no. Holla, BBC, HOLLA.

Oh yes, and I’m not being facetious, either. I really think it’s a brilliant piece of work. Let the debate begin.

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  • http://www.lionndubh.blogspot.com kelly

    i also agree that it’s a brilliant piece of work, eve.

  • http://www.guzzlingcakes.com/ Eve

    Excellent.

  • steph

    is this the one that’s four and a half minutes of silence? or is that something else i’m thinking of?

  • http://www.guzzlingcakes.com/ Eve

    That’s the one.

  • The Rev

    John Cage’s 4’33 is a pathetic piece of neophilic performance art, and really, a sign of the exhaustion of western civilisation. I listen to Stockhausen and Weber, but I’ve got little tolerance for the broad category of wankery that passes as “art” thanks to the stunted aesthetic taste and general permissiveness of the general population.

  • http://www.guzzlingcakes.com/ Eve

    You acknowledge that music played from helicopters and pieces designed after Schoeneberg’s are worthy of the term, but you won’t acknowledge that Cage’s work is art? I’m thinking you need to define your idea of “art.”

  • The Rev

    Stockhausen and Weber, while being wanky motherfucks themselves, at least performed music that was not purely a gimmick. Cage’s stuff is all right, but 4’33 is nothing more a gimmick designed to shock the classical tradition – a tradition which now has little more presence than a few selections in a grade-school piano textbook for the most part. As Barzun points out in From Dawn to Decadence, how many times can the symphony sit there doing nothing for four and a half-minutes before the joke wears off? (Answer: Once)

  • http://www.guzzlingcakes.com/ Eve

    You don’t think helicopters and 12 tone scales are a gimmick? The classical tradition needed a shock. I don’t think it’s so much a matter of how many times it’s played, just that it exists.

    Art is intended to provoke either emotion or thought or both in its audience. One way of doing that is by making them very, very uncomfortable, and what’s more uncomfortable than silence?

    Please don’t provide a list, I’m being rhetorical here.

  • The Rev

    That’s the thing though, by the time John Cage wrote 4’33, the classical tradition was already giving up the ghost, with a few epigones working jazz. If it needed a shock, it was defibrillation.

    For that matter, Cage’s work doesn’t provoke anything other than boredom after the first performance. Once you know what 4’33 is, you don’t sit there expecting the orchestra to start up at any moment and growing increasingly tense as the silence continues, you just sit there waiting for it to be over and the next piece to come on.

    That silence is seen as shocking too, is mostly because the vast majority of us live under the hegemony of unceasing noise, and without it, the constant massaging of our emotions ceases temporarily. And thus, its degeneracy. It relies on us being shackled to noise, and if we aren’t (as I would argue I am not, as an aside) it fails to impress.

  • http://www.guzzlingcakes.com/ Eve

    But we are, and that’s the point.

  • The Rev

    Preying on degeneracy doesn’t make it any better. Otherwise kicking crippled people would be a-ok.

  • http://www.guzzlingcakes.com/ Eve

    Preying on degeneracy isn’t necessarily violent, just parasitic. It just means you’d, say, take advantage of the crippled person’s lack in musical taste to further your ambitions, rather than kick him.