The Clements Blog
by Tim Benjamin
Wednesday, 1st December 2010 | 2 comments
John Cage's 4'33'' is one of the most famous and notorious pieces of modern music. Composed in 1952 it consists of three movements, but no notes - only the instruction 'tacet', silent. When the pianist David Tudor first performed it, he marked the beginning and end of each movement by opening and closing the piano lid, but otherwise kept still and silent for four and a half minutes.
Since then, the piece has provoked almost continuous controversy and debate, as well as frequent performances. To give you an idea of what it is like live, here is a rare orchestral rendition by the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Notice how the conductor, Lawrence Foster, gives a silent downbeat at the beginning of each movement:
Yet this year 4'33'' may gain even more notoriety, as a Facebook group, dubbed 'Cage Against the Machine', is campaigning to make the piece the Christmas no.1 in the UK.
The founder of the Facebook page initially set it up as a joke, in response to the previous year's successful campaign to get 90s nu-metal group Rage Against the Machine to the Christmas no.1 instead of that year's X-Factor winner, Joe McElderry, but it has taken on a life of its own and already has more than 40,000 fans. There's still a way to go, but there is just a chance that the campaign will succeed and enough people download Cage's 'silent piece' to send it to the top of the Christmas Top 40.
And if that happens, will Radio 1 play it?
Sounds like a great idea! I would definitely rather listen to silence than Simon Cowell's latest ...
Looks like John Cage didn't even make it into the Top 40 of the Christmas chart! What a shame! Instead X Factor winner Matt Cardle got the number 1 slot with an awful cover of Biffy Clyro's great song :-/
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