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

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Cage broke the old paradigm of music, and showed that one could be quite productive using new approaches. 4'33" was just one tiny aspect of what he accomplished. This is really where "music" becomes sound, a material to be used artistically. Of course, things get confused because the old paradigm devices (instruments, musicians) are used to accomplish this new paradigm. A lot of resentment resulted because the old devices were still used, and this seemed like torture to the old-paradigmers. Why couldn't he have just taken his sheet metal and gone off to play in the corner? I suppose this is because he was somewhat of a mischievous 'upsetter.' He wanted to shake things up, but this was not his sole purpose by any means.

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Cage broke the old paradigm of music, and showed that one could be quite productive using new approaches. 4'33" was just one tiny aspect of what he accomplished. This is really where "music" becomes sound, a material to be used artistically. Of course, things get confused because the old paradigm devices (instruments, musicians) are used to accomplish this new paradigm. A lot of resentment resulted because the old devices were still used, and this seemed like torture to the old-paradigmers. Why couldn't he have just taken his sheet metal and gone off to play in the corner? I suppose this is because he was somewhat of a mischievous 'upsetter.' He wanted to shake things up, but this was not his sole purpose by any means.
    Interesting comment. In another thread, I mentioned that one problem with some progressive contemporary music is not only that it is performed by musicians with instruments, but by musicians in black ties or gowns playing traditional acoustic instruments of the 19th century symphony orchestra on a stage in a traditional concert hall. This context is almost like a cathedral for many listeners, and many can actually be offended by the sacrilegious new sounds in that setting. I've noted before that many genres of contemporary music, including atonal genres, are accepted without question when heard on the internet or TV or in the movie theater.

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    Senior Member Dan Ante's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    I've noted before that many genres of contemporary music, including atonal genres, are accepted without question when heard on the internet or TV or in the movie theater.
    Not by me or my musical friends!
    "Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car, oversteer is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car.

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Ante View Post
    Not by me or my musical friends!
    Thanks for that comment. Me and my musical friends disagree with all 827 of your posts here at talkclassical. Interestingly, my friends who hate all music and/or have no musical ability whatsoever agree with your posts! I'm glad to have been able to help you out with this constructive and worthwhile post.
    Last edited by fluteman; Jun-13-2018 at 01:52.

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    Senior Member Dan Ante's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fluteman View Post
    Thanks for that comment. Me and my musical friends disagree with all 827 of your posts here at talkclassical. Interestingly, my friends who hate all music and/or have no musical ability whatsoever agree with your posts! I'm glad to have been able to help you out with this constructive and worthwhile post.
    Steady on fluteman I was just pointing out a slight error in your assumption
    "Understeer is when you hit the wall with the front of the car, oversteer is when you hit the wall with the rear of the car.

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Ante View Post
    Steady on fluteman I was just pointing out a slight error in your assumption
    I never made any assumption about you and your musical friends. And you are always free to disagree with anything I say here (obviously!). The point I was making was that simply saying "I disagree" adds nothing to the discussion. This is my biggest pet peeve with this or any other internet forum. If you are familiar with Monty Python's Flying Circus, perhaps you know The Argument Sketch, one of their best bits. One of the lines there is something like, "An argument is more than just simple contradiction!" with the rejoinder, "No it isn't!"
    As for the long standing pervasiveness of contemporary music in TV and movies (at least in the US), including atonal and minimalist, I've discussed that in other threads. I'm always amused that many who respond say that such music somehow doesn't count, or even that it isn't really music but rather "sound effects". I suppose this is because it isn't performed at Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, La Scala or the Musikverein Wien or another of the sacred music cathedrals by musicians wearing black costumes and playing 19th century acoustic instruments.
    Last edited by fluteman; Jun-13-2018 at 14:32.

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    Member st Omer's Avatar
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    The reason 4'33" is disparaged as music is because it is not music. It may qualify as a religious experience if somebody takes 4'33" to meditate. This meditation could be done at a piano, with a harmonica in your mouth, or a whistle in your nose but it still wouldn't be music. Listening to the sounds of nature and meditating can be a worthwhile experience but putting a title to it and a gimmick of sitting at a piano, or in front of an orchestra, doesn't make it a musical composition. I wouldn't expect 4'33" of meditation to reveal any deep secrets of the universe but it may have a similar effect as a yoga session, meditation, or a prayer all of which are beneficial.
    Last edited by st Omer; Jun-13-2018 at 17:21.

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    Quote Originally Posted by st Omer View Post
    The reason 4'33" is disparaged as music is because it is not music. It may qualify as a religious experience if somebody takes 4'33" to meditate. This meditation could be done at a piano, with a harmonica in your mouth, or a whistle in your nose but it still wouldn't be music. Listening to the sounds of nature and meditating can be a worthwhile experience but putting a title to it and a gimmick of sitting at a piano, or in front of an orchestra, doesn't make it a musical composition. I wouldn't expect 4'33" of meditation to reveal any deep secrets of the universe but it may have a similar effect as a yoga session, meditation, or a prayer all of which are beneficial.
    OK, but what does it matter whether something is or is not music? That's a definition question, and why people here are so obsessed with definitions (and rankings) I'll never know. To me, your far more interesting point concerns the "gimmick" about someone sitting in front of a concert grand piano or standing in front of a full symphony orchestra. Isn't there always an element of gimmickry, or at least pageantry, in someone wearing black tie and tails, standing on the stage in the grand Carnegie Hall in New York or the Musikverein in Vienna, and holding a 300-year old violin that cost 16 million dollars, regardless of what music, or non-music, results?

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    Quote Originally Posted by st Omer View Post
    The reason 4'33" is disparaged as music is because it is not music. It may qualify as a religious experience if somebody takes 4'33" to meditate. This meditation could be done at a piano, with a harmonica in your mouth, or a whistle in your nose but it still wouldn't be music. Listening to the sounds of nature and meditating can be a worthwhile experience but putting a title to it and a gimmick of sitting at a piano, or in front of an orchestra, doesn't make it a musical composition. I wouldn't expect 4'33" of meditation to reveal any deep secrets of the universe but it may have a similar effect as a yoga session, meditation, or a prayer all of which are beneficial.
    Well, the whole point Cage was making is that "music" is what we define it as being. Since your definition is obviously not flexible enough to accommodate this degree of freedom, than of course, to you, 4'33" is not "music" as you define it.

    I'm not talking to myself; I'm trying to point out what the truth is.
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    The question that the discussion creator had was why 4'33" was disparaged and why western forms of religious music get their own forums. I think I answered the question, 4'33" is not music so the question is based on a false premise to begin with. Show me evidence that 4'33" is music and then maybe the question has some validity. Music is defined by the Miriam Webster dictionary as follows:

    a : the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity
    b : vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony

    I don't see that 4'33" meets that definition. Cage's 4'33" was an idea. Whether it was a good idea or a some goofy gimmick is up for debate. I don't even think it is art. It is an idea and a gimmick. Maybe you can sit for 4'33" and hear sounds of some sort. Some of those sounds may be musical. Maybe you will hear a jackhammer on the street (not music), your own flatulence (probably not music because it doesn't meet the Miriam Webster definition stated above unless you are skilled in the manipulation of your rear orifice and can control the sound coming fourth arranging them to fit the Miriam Webster definition), birds singing (certainly pleasant music), but 4'33" is not a composition regardless of the fact that Cage took some sheet music and wrote 4'33" on it. An examination of the original score shows no notes. The concept that there is no such thing as silence may be true but it doesn't make 4'33" music. Maybe Paul Simon understood the idea of the non existence of silence and wrote a really good tune about it, "Sounds of Silence". His tune about silence was actually music and not some abstract idea pseudo-intellectuals confuse themselves over. He made a lot of money off that tune and I noted you can actually pay for the score to 4'33" so somebody is making money off it so that may be another good thing about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by st Omer View Post
    Cage's 4'33" was an idea. Whether it was a good idea or a some goofy gimmick is up for debate. I don't even think it is art. It is an idea and a gimmick.
    It was a gimmick...Cage's whole life was a gimmick. And it (4'33") certainly wasn't art.

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    Senior Member San Antone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by st Omer View Post
    The question that the discussion creator had was why 4'33" was disparaged and why western forms of religious music get their own forums. I think I answered the question, 4'33" is not music so the question is based on a false premise to begin with. Show me evidence that 4'33" is music and then maybe the question has some validity. Music is defined by the Miriam Webster dictionary as follows:
    Whether 4'33" is music or not, according to a dictionary definition, is irrelevant. Also, no one needs to prove anything to you about 4'33". John Cage desired to create four minutes of "silence" in order to highlight how potentially beautiful the sounds around us are if we listen to them with a receptive mind.

    What 4'33" has to do with sacred music is a mystery to me.
    Last edited by San Antone; Jun-13-2018 at 20:47.

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    Senior Member Blancrocher's Avatar
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    Perhaps instead of creating another subforum, the site owner should create a whole forum--another sister forum for TC--devoted wholly to 4'33''. All discussion of this work could then be moved to that place and be disallowed here.

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    Senior Member millionrainbows's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by st Omer View Post
    The question that the discussion creator had was why 4'33" was disparaged and why western forms of religious music get their own forums. I think I answered the question, 4'33" is not music so the question is based on a false premise to begin with. Show me evidence that 4'33" is music and then maybe the question has some validity.
    The point we must acknowledge, if we are to get past an impasse, it that 4'33" is essentially a "sacred" work.

    It is a work by a composer in the field of music, because it deals with the framing and contextualization of sounds (not visual colors, etc).

    This seems to be the obstacle to most: 4'33" has no "content" except when it is performed. The "content" (sounds) of the work, which are to be listened to as if they were music, are not pre-determined; they only exist within the framework of the work as it is performed in the now.

    4'33" is simply a conceptual framework, with an invitation to "listen" to the sounds which occur within that framework.
    This is not rocket science; this should be simple and straightforward enough to grasp for any reasonably logically-thinking listener.

    As I stated in my opening post, I consider 4'33" to be a sacred work because it is "sacred" in nature, i.e. we listen to the sounds around us as if they were music. This in itself is an exercise in awareness. Since Cage was a Buddhist, I consider this to be coming from that sacred tradition.

    What's the problem? It seems simple enough, unless we want to complicate and over-analyze it, subject it to strict definitions of music, etc.
    Last edited by millionrainbows; Jun-13-2018 at 22:16.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I am the spirit of dead zebras." - It came to me in a dream

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blancrocher View Post
    Perhaps instead of creating another subforum, the site owner should create a whole forum--another sister forum for TC--devoted wholly to 4'33''. All discussion of this work could then be moved to that place and be disallowed here.
    I see your point, Blancrocher: this thread has reached a glorious 138 pages!

    But instead of that, an easier and quicker method would be to simply derail the thread and get it closed down.
    "The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?"
    -Confucious

    "In Spring! In the creation of art it must be as it is in Spring!" -Arnold Schoenberg

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made us." -Jean-Paul Sartre

    "I am the spirit of dead zebras." - It came to me in a dream

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