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4'33"

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John Cage

John Cage


General Info

Year: 1952
Duration: c. 4:33
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Piano
Publisher: Edition Peters
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $12.95


Movements

Three movements


Instrumentation (Flexible)

Any combination of instruments.


Errata

None discovered thus far.


Program Notes

4′33″ (pronounced "four minutes, thirty-three seconds" or just "four thirty-three") is a three-movement composition by American experimental composer John Cage. It was composed in 1952, for any instrument or combination of instruments, and the score instructs the performer(s) not to play their instrument(s) during the entire duration of the piece throughout the three movements. The piece consists of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, although it is commonly perceived as "four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence". The title of the piece refers to the total length in minutes and seconds of a given performance, 4′33″ being the total length of the first public performance.

Conceived around 1947–48, while the composer was working on Sonatas and Interludes, 4′33″ became for Cage the epitome of his idea that any sounds may constitute music. It was also a reflection of the influence of Zen Buddhism, which Cage had studied since the late 1940s. In a 1982 interview, and on numerous other occasions, Cage stated that 4′33″ was, in his opinion, his most important work. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians describes 4′33″ as Cage's "most famous and controversial creation".

- Program Note from Wikipedia


4’33” is a three-movement composition in which the performer makes no intentional sounds for the duration of the piece: four minutes and thirty three seconds. It was premiered in 1952, and has been generating controversy and debate ever since. The premiere of 4'33" was given by David Tudor on August 29th, 1952, at Maverick Concert Hall, Woodstock, New York as part of a recital of contemporary piano music. The audience saw him sit at the piano and, to mark the beginning of the piece, close the keyboard lid. Some time later he opened it briefly, to mark the end of the first movement. This process was repeated for the second and third movements. The piece passed without a note being played - in fact, without Tudor (or anyone else) having made any deliberate sound as part of the piece. Tudor timed the three movements with a stopwatch, while turning the pages of the score.

Cage later spoke regarding the premiere and the audience’s reaction: “They missed the point. There’s no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third, people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”

- Program Note from publisher


Commercial Discography

None discovered thus far.


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


Performances

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Works for Winds by this Composer

Adaptable Music


All Wind Works


Resources