4’33’ by John Cage

4’33’ (Four minutes and Thirty-three Seconds, 1952) is a composition composed by American composer John Cage. In this particular video it was performed and conducted live orchestra and soloist. Cage was known as an avant-garde composer and influential on the mid-20th-century music by his compositions and unconventional ideas.

4’33’ is one of John Cages’ best works, a piece where performer/s remain silent onstage for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Pianist David Tudor held the world premiere on August 29, 1952, Tudor walked out on stage in Woodstock, NY and sat at the piano and shut the lid. The silence does not create silence as the audience begins to create their own music from whispering, walking out and shuffling in their seat.

Cage had composed this piece so it would encourage people to listen to the sounds around them and they are making. He believes that the sounds make their own music despite not being traditional or conventional.

The video is a live orchestra and soloist on stage where they sit in silence but build suspense up from tuning their instruments. The orchestra is in complete silence but as you watch it you begin to hear other sounds such as the audience moving in their chair, a baby crying and coughing. Describing this to a deaf person would be challenging as silence is involved in the piece. The piece creates a feeling that you’re alone in a room but you realise you are not alone as you hear minor sounds. Creating a peaceful but yet confusing experience, which adds onto the audience creating their own sounds.

What is important from 4’33’ is you feel as if it is a slow and empty experience due to the silence. Where as listening to 4 and a half minutes of a song or performance with music created from instruments and vocals, it feels as time files by so fast. This work touches on music is everywhere and everyone creates music without noticing. It shows the importance of silence to hear the sounds that a person may have not paid attention to once before.

A work that was influenced by 4’33’ is “Notions of silence 2”. A 10-minute video that is in complete silence but it is not as anticipated as Cage’s work but rather a display of the same environment but focusing on sounds around in that environment.


4’33” John Cage. (2013). [image] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oh-o3udImy8 [Accessed 29 Apr. 2017].

Collins, C. (2015). John Cage 4’33” Music or Silence?. [online] CMUSE. Available at: http://www.cmuse.org/john-cage-433-music-or-silence/ [Accessed 29 Apr. 2017].

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2015). John Cage | American composer. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Cage [Accessed 29 Apr. 2017].

Notion of Silence 2. (2010). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27ne_hw04tc [Accessed 29 Apr. 2017]



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