ABSTRACT: The purpose of this essay is to examine the aesthetic behindCage's "silent" composition, to trace itshistory, and to show that it marked a significant change in John Cage'smusical thought -- specifically how it forms a point-of-no-return fromthe conventional communicative, self-expressive and intentional purposeof music to a radical new aesthetic that informs the field of unintentionalsound, interpenetration, chance, and indeterminacy. The compositional processis described, both the writing of and its evolution frompast thought. Implications for performance are examined, and recommendationsare made.
Tudor placed the hand-written score, which was in conventional notation with blank measures, on the piano and sat motionless as he used a stopwatch to measure the time of each movement. The score indicated three silent movements, each of a different length, but when added together totalled four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Tudor signaled its commencement by lowering the keyboard lid of the piano. The sound of the wind in the trees entered the first movement. After thirty seconds of no action, he raised the lid to signal the end of the first movement. It was then lowered for the second movement, during which raindrops pattered on the roof. The score was in several pages, so he turned the pages as time passed, yet playing nothing at all. The keyboard lid was raised and lowered again for the final movement, during which the audience whispered and muttered. 2
The Sound of Silence gives an opportunity to contemplate on one’s moral and sociological imagination in life, which is understandably an issue during the time that this song was written, the era of sexual revolution and prevalence of drug use.
At the outset of the first movement, as I sat in silence, the hall wasvery quiet. The audience, of course, was expecting the usual performanceritual. I was supposed to play something, make sounds. But when this didn'thappen, one could actually feel the tension building in the hall. It waslike a long silence during a phone conversation. The first movement isthe shortest, only about a half minute, but it seemed much longer. I wouldsay that the first movement had a defined shape and content. It was veryquiet -- "silent" some would say, with increasing tension anda climax near the end.
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Silence is usually defined as the lack of sound. But for Dianne Aprile, silence is not the lack of something; it is something unto itself—something both powerful and necessary in our lives.
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is also one of Cage's first chance works, but, moreimportantly, it was the first that was completely free of any intentionalsounds, embracing interpenetration and indeterminacy, thus representinga radical change of aesthetics. "In the case of ,I actually used the same method of working [as in the ],and I built up the silence of each movement, and three movements add upto 4'33". It seems idiotic. But, that's what I did. I didn't haveto bother with the pitch tables, or the amplitude tables. All I had todo was work with the durations."57Hewent on to explain that each movement was built up with short notes allof which were silent and determined by chance. Thus, the formal structurewas determined by chance, but the content (unintentional environmentalsounds) was indeterminate.
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But the similarities of this funeral march to 4'33" are only superficial. The intent and concept of Allais' Funeral March was entirely different from 4'33". For one, Allais the humorist intended his work to be a joke. Cage was very serious about 4'33" and was careful to specify that it was not a joke. Secondly and more importantly, Allais' composition was really meant to be silent, being for a deaf man. Cage's work is not silent at all. It embraces the whole world of unintentional sound; i.e., it is full of sounds.
The Sounds of Silence: John Cage and 4'33" - …The origin of the concept of , i.e., a silent frame filled with non-intentional environmental sounds, is debatable. But when Cage was a Fellow at Wesleyan's Center of Advanced Studies (1960-61), he was asked to compile a list of books having the greatest influence on his thought. One of these was Luigi Russolo's , the Italian Futurist, (1916). Cage referred to The Art of Noises in his 1948 lecture at Vassar. In this book there is a chapter that presages "The Noises of Nature and Life". Russolo begins by poetically describing many of the sounds of nature. Then comes a remarkable statement:
Sounds Of Silence Lyrics by Simon & Garfunkel at the Lyrics DepotUrsula Franklin uses a variety of techniques in order for the audience to fully understand her message, and to inform them of the topics discussed in her essay, as is particularly apparent in paragraph 5 of her essay “Silence and the Notion of the Commons.” Franklin address...
How the sound of silence rejuvenates the soul | Aeon …
And the signs said the words of the prophets
Are written on the subway halls, and tenement halls
And whispered in the Sound of Silence.