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Thread: Why is 4'33" disparaged, while Western forms of sacred music get their own forum?

  1. #31
    Senior Member DiesIraeCX's Avatar
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    --------------------------------------
    "No composer has been more innovative than Beethoven, he radically changed the nature and character of the music composed in the two centuries that followed his earliest works" - Charles Rosen ("The Classical Style")

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    Quote Originally Posted by SeptimalTritone View Post
    For the record, I think that such an experience can be powerful.

    A good youtube version of the work is here. I like the crowd's eager energy: there's such a peace and space.
    Glad to see you thinking outside the box, SeptimalTritone. But I should warn you that such thinking isn't particularly welcome to an audience who saw music die the day the piano stopped playing along nicely in C Major.

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    Senior Member ahammel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SiegendesLicht View Post
    How exactly is this music sacred and why do you oppose it to "Western" music? Was John Cage not a Westerner?
    Cage was famously interested in non-Western forms of spiritual expression such as Zen Buddhism and Indian philosophy. I'm not sure whether 4'33" was intended primarily as an expression of Zen. I've always understood the point to be something like: all sounds are music, and there is no such thing as the complete absence of sound. There is therefore no such thing as the absence of music.
    I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that

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    Quote Originally Posted by ahammel View Post
    Cage was famously interested in non-Western forms of spiritual expression such as Zen Buddhism and Indian philosophy. I'm not sure whether 4'33" was intended primarily as an expression of Zen. I've always understood the point to be something like: all sounds are music, and there is no such thing as the complete absence of sound. There is therefore no such thing as the absence of music.
    It's almost like he didn't write a piece at all, but rather took a long-legendary piece called "Silence" and transcribed it for performers. And yes, your statement is completely correct (well, perhaps not inside a black hole): there is no "nothing" - which is a scientific point that supports the conclusion that the "THERE'S NOTHING THERE TO UNDERSTAND" crowd in previous pages are... lacking some crucial understanding. If they'd just use their ears...

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    TresPicos- It always amazes me how people cannot see the conceptual importance of 4'33'', or Duchamp's Fountain, for that matter. You may ridicule them all you want, but you're only revealing your own ignorance.

    That's rather presumptuous on your part... and typical of the assumptions repeatedly made by the self-appointed champions of Modern Art/Music. I certainly know far more about the history of Duchamp's Fountain and the tradition in which it was conceived, the true author, the deception behind the work and its reputation... in America than I suspect you are even aware of. In other words, one can be fully knowledgeable of a work of art... have a great understanding of it... and still not like it... even despise it.
    Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

    Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with
    those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.

    Pablo Picasso

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    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    TresPicos- It always amazes me how people cannot see the conceptual importance of 4'33'', or Duchamp's Fountain, for that matter. You may ridicule them all you want, but you're only revealing your own ignorance.

    That's rather presumptuous on your part... and typical of the assumptions repeatedly made by the self-appointed champions of Modern Art/Music. I certainly know far more about the history of Duchamp's Fountain and the tradition in which it was conceived, the true author, the deception behind the work and its reputation... in America than I suspect you are even aware of. In other words, one can be fully knowledgeable of a work of art... have a great understanding of it... and still not like it... even despise it.
    Apparently knowledge =/= understanding.

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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    The critics can not hear anything.
    Last edited by arpeggio; Feb-04-2015 at 00:20.
    It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious. And I am a very ingenious fellow

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    arcaneholocaust- ...the strength of 4'33" is in its concept. The fact that people can't let it go is, if anything, only a testament to the strength of that concept.

    But then it might just be that some people are interested in listening to music... not entertaining "concepts".
    Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

    Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with
    those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.

    Pablo Picasso

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    Senior Member Giordano's Avatar
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    I would recommend a little more moderation of the excitement with such "conceptual significances." Keep chopping wood and carrying water, and things that appear fascinating now may fade away as not so significant tomorrow.

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giordano View Post
    I would recommend a little more moderation of the excitement with such "conceptual significances." Keep chopping wood and carrying water, and things that appear fascinating now may fade away as not so significant tomorrow.
    Conversely, it could be found that the conceptual significance of 4' 33'', is precisely the same as your prescription of chopping wood and carrying water.

    But I disagree that the chop wood and carry water approach leads to one finding things in general less fascinating or significant. I think the end result is the opposite of what you are suggesting.

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    Senior Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DiesIraeVIX View Post
    --------------------------------------
    A most insightful post! Thank you for elucidating on a such a vast topic.

    That said, I am not trying to be mean or nasty against 4'33". I even checked out a You Tube of an orchestral version of 4'33" and was delightfully entertained by the production itself. The best part was a cough in the middle of it and the massive applause the conductor received as he left the podium. Seriously, I was entertained, though I only watched enough to get the cough and the applause parts. Perhaps the real problem is that it was never a suitable work for piano. The orchestral version being so much richer.
    Last edited by Florestan; Feb-04-2015 at 01:04.
    The junk merchant doesn't sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.

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    If someone starts playing something in 4'33", is it still 4'33"? I think I might bring a penny whistle and do some crazy ad lib improvisations just to keep the audience amused.

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  23. #43
    Senior Member some guy's Avatar
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    Funny.

    We've gone over this ground before, numerous times, but it's as if no one has ever said anything about 4'33" before this thread, because all the usual canards come rushing in, fresh as daisies, as if no one had ever said anything about what the piece really is.

    Of course, I know why.

    Anyway, not that it will do any good: 4'33" was something John had been thinking about for around ten years before he finally wrote it. Although you can find quotes where he also refers to it as the "silent" piece, it is not about silence at all but about intention. It is not a piece with no sounds; it is a piece that consists entirely of sounds that the composer did not intend. It is very much a piece about sound. It's just that in 4'33", the sounds are not under the control of the composer. That's called indeterminacy, and there are lots of pieces, by lots of different composers, both before and after 4'33", that are indeterminate.

    While the actual sounds that occur in any given performance--I have seen this live several times, and there are definitely good performances and bad ones--are not caused by Mr. Cage in the same way that the sounds in a Beethoven piece are caused by Herr van Beethoven,* the framework is very much a thing that Cage has made. And it is a musical piece. It has three movements, with precise timings. It is a piece for performers. It has musical instructions.

    It can be seen as the musical equivalent of the framing one does when taking a picture. Funny that no one seems to mind if people take photos or if some of those photos are displayed on museum walls as art. But so many people get really bent out of shape if Cage frames some environmental sounds and calls the result music.

    It also very obviously includes the audience in a way no other piece had done before. This is not a piece where the composer arranges a bunch of notes in a particular order for a musician to perform for you. This is a piece where both composer and performer step aside and invite you to make this into music. You know that one result of this piece has been a thing called the sound walk. They're very popular; you may have heard of them. They all come from the idea that music is about listening. In a traditional concert, the sounds you hear have been organized for you. In a sound walk, or at a performance of 4'33", you do that work.

    You may not like it. You may not like what it says or seems to be saying. But claiming that it is not a piece of music is kinda silly. And all this talk about it's being only conceptual is so much special pleading. Name me a piece of music by anyone from any age that is not conceptual.

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    4' 33" is not for me a musical joke but the first major time that principles from Zen Buddhism have entered into Western composition.

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