View Poll Results: Do you consider John Cage a great composer?

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Thread: Do you consider John Cage a great composer?

  1. #406
    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmsbls View Post
    Interestingly, Cage explicitly referred to performers of 4'33", and he was not thinking of the audience. I would say that many members of the classical music community (performers, conductors, musicologists) do believe that 4'33" is classical music. Given that they spend their life's work on classical music, I think it's reasonable to consider them as having an important view.

    I have no problem with someone feeling that 4'33" is not music, is not important, or shouldn't ever be performed in concerts. I think that it can be debated but probably ought not to be the object of ridicule on classical music sites. I especially think that members of TC who find value in 4'33" ought not to be ridiculed on classical music sites. Of course, I don't think any TC member should be ridiculed on TC for any reason.
    Cage described the piece as “the absence of intended sounds.” The regular performers produce little or no sounds. The sounds from the audience becomes part of the composition, so in essence the audience becomes the aural performers more than the those originally set to perform. Personally I don't have a problem with anyone saying it is or isn't music, just a difference in definition. I can see it either way, and doubt if there would ever be a compromise between the 2 sides.

    On the subject of the opinions of musicians, I have little doubt if you went back in time and ask all the great composers pre-1920, if 4'33" is music, they would laugh or become enraged (especially Beethoven I can imagine). It's the definition of music changing. Unintended sounds always existed before 4'33". Asking contemporary musicians that are taught it is music, is almost like asking a league of magicians whether magic exists.

    https://www.britannica.com/topic/433-by-Cage
    Last edited by Phil loves classical; Dec-02-2020 at 23:47.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

  2. #407
    Senior Member Ich muss Caligari werden's Avatar
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    It would be interesting to know if Cage would now be embarrassed by 4'33'' - rather say like Saint-Saëns was by his "greatest hit", Le Carnaval des animaux; might he resent its celebrity over his other work? Little matter; my perspective: there is no good reason why music, like the other fine arts, shouldn't expand its reach into areas philosophical or other, even to the point where it questions its own nature and accoutrements as 4'33'' does. If it doesn't appeal to some, or offends others, they don't have to listen to it!
    De la musique avant toute chose... Paul Verlaine

  3. #408
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ich muss Caligari werden View Post
    If it doesn't appeal to some, or offends others, they don't have to listen to it!
    That's a relief. I'm highly susceptible to earworms.

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  5. #409
    Senior Member consuono's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ich muss Caligari werden View Post
    ... If it doesn't appeal to some, or offends others, they don't have to listen to it!
    Or you can listen to it during any 4 minutes and 33 seconds of your day. You can't argue with the price.

    I just thought...if I do that per Cage's instructions without buying the sheet music, is that copyright infringement?
    Last edited by consuono; Dec-02-2020 at 23:47.

  6. #410
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    Cage described the piece as “the absence of intended sounds.” The regular performers produce little or no sounds. The sounds from the audience becomes part of the composition, so in essence the audience becomes the aural performers more than the those originally set to perform. Personally I don't have a problem with anyone saying it is or isn't music, just a difference in definition. I can see it either way, and doubt if there would ever be a compromise between the 2 sides.
    The reason I don't consider 4'33" as music is precisely because I view one requirement for music to be that the sounds are intentional. But again, my view is not so important.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    On the subject of the opinions of musicians, I have little doubt if you went back in time and ask all the great composers pre-1920, if 4'33" is music, they would laugh or become enraged (especially Beethoven I can imagine). It's the definition of music changing. Unintended sounds always existed before 4'33". Asking contemporary musicians that are taught it is music, is almost like asking a league of magicians whether magic exists.
    Well, music can evolve such that what earlier composers viewed as music could be different than what today's composers view as music. I admit that I have trouble defining music for the group who actually create music. I think it's better left up to them to define music. I still will likely view 4'33" as not music even though I accept that a significant portion of the classical music community views it as music.

  7. #411
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    The BBC on 4'33" which address two of points which have come up repeatedly in this thread.

    On the evening of 29 August 1952, David Tudor stepped onto the platform of the aptly named Maverick Concert Hall, a historic timber-hewn venue nestling in forest near Woodstock, New York to play John Cage’s new piece 4’33”.

    Seating himself at the piano he placed a score on the stand, set a stopwatch, closed the lid – and sat quietly for 33 seconds. Briefly opening then re-shutting the lid, he re-set the stopwatch and sat for two minutes 40 seconds, occasionally turning the score’s pages. He repeated the process, this time for one minute 20 seconds. Finally he stood, bowed to polite applause from the remaining audience and walked off stage.

    So passed the premiere of John Cage’s 4’33”, the three-movement ‘silent piece’ titled for its chance-determined total duration and marked ‘Tacet, for any instrument or combination of instruments’. It would confirm John Cage as one of the most controversial – and significant – composers of the 20th century.

    At the post-concert discussion, shock and bemusement gave way to anger. Cage had seemingly thumbed his nose at the entire western concert tradition, even at music itself. Amid the uproar, an irate local artist shouted, ‘Good people of Woodstock, let’s drive these people out of town!’

    What is the point of John Cage 4′ 33″?

    Cage offered some intriguing insights when asked afterwards about the event: ‘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 patterning the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.’

    Many assumed 4’33” was some kind of Dadaist publicity stunt; indeed, a critic dismissed a subsequent New York performance as ‘Greenwich Village exhibitionism’. While undoubtedly subversive, however, it was far from renegade for its own sake, but sprang from many years spent pondering the nature of silence, intentionality, listening and performance. Another critic would later declare it ‘the pivotal composition of this century’.

    Cage’s ideas had begun to coalesce in 1948, when he first mooted a silent piece. This, he said, would be dubbed ‘Silent Prayer’, and he joked semi-seriously about submitting it to the Muzak company in protest at what he saw as their sonic intrusion of public spaces. The same year he embarked in earnest on a study of Zen Buddhism and eastern philosophies that set him on a path ‘from making to accepting’, and the possibilities afforded by openness to environmental and unintended sounds.

    Is John Cage’s 4’33” considered music?

    In 1951, two encounters helped shape his thinking: with the artist Robert Rauschenberg and with the anechoic chamber at Harvard University. Cage was especially taken with the former’s White Paintings, describing them as ‘airports for lights, shadows and particles’. Emerging from the complete, echoless silence of the latter, he expressed surprise at having been able to hear two sounds, one high and one low, which an engineer informed him comprised the sounds of his own nervous system and blood circulation. Hence that famous conclusion above, ‘There’s no such thing as silence’.

    For many composers and artists at the time and since, 4’33” signalled a seismic re-imagining of the very stuff of art and life, and the constructs that too often divide them. Tudor called it ‘one of the most intense listening experiences you can have’. Arguably, that remains as true now as it was in 1952 – and the piece remains just as enigmatic, brimming with questions still pertinent today.

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    I think it is fair to say that critical opinion has matured over time, moving away from anger and ridicule to acceptance and even admiration.

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  9. #412
    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    I find that part of Cage's statement "What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen..." kind of condescending. I'm sure he knows it's clearly a matter of different perspective. He could have said he's simply drawing attention to a different world of sounds.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

  10. #413
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    I find that part of Cage's statement "What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen..." kind of condescending. I'm sure he knows it's clearly a matter of different perspective. He could have said he's simply drawing attention to a different world of sounds.
    I've always felt that 4'33" should not be performed without a preliminary explanation of the work. There's simply no reason to expect people to understand "how to listen" without such an explanation, and doing so simply invites ridicule and misunderstanding.

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  12. #414
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    Another discussion of 4'33" this one from NPR on what would have been Cage's 100th birthday.

    Some excerpts:

    In the audience is a broad cross-section of the city's classical musical community, including composers like Morton Feldman and Earl Brown, whose works are being performed this particular night. Also present are some vacationing members of the New York Philharmonic, looking to keep up with the antics of the new music renegades, and composer John Cage, who's premiering two new works. For the first, which would later become known as "Water Music," pianist David Tudor, a lifelong Cage collaborator, plays prepared piano, a duck call and a transistor radio. For the second, the provisionally entitled "Four Pieces," Tudor starts a stopwatch, sits down in front of the piano, closes the lid and begins a performance in which he never plays a note.

    In the Maverick that night, one could likely hear the sound of the breeze in the trees, rain pattering lightly on the rooftop, the chirping of crickets, a dog barking aimlessly somewhere in the distance, the sound of bodies shifting their weight on creaky pine benches, the sound of breath being drawn and being expired.

    This was music for John Cage. And unlike compositions designed to make the outside world fall away, here was a music that, when it engaged you, made the present world open up like a lotus blossoming in stop-motion photography. It was all very much in keeping with Cage's Zen world view, which emphasized the power of unmediated experience and direct perception of what Cage called the "isness" of life.

    As one might expect, many listeners found this view unpalatable, despite the fact that the hall itself could be a metaphor for Cage's ideal union of music and nature. There was an uproar. People thought 4'33" was a joke or some kind of avant-garde nose-thumbing.

    But, in fact, Cage's little silent composition was no joke and it would have an incalculable, if characteristically quiet, influence on a great deal of music that came after.

    The emerging technology of portable recorders permitted the cataloging and manipulation of environmental sounds by musicians. Composer Steve Reich explored the rhythms of the human voice and of trains. The sound of the ocean was as central to The Who's Quadrophenia as Pete Townshend's thrashing guitar. Brian Eno, who credits Cage with inspiring him to become a composer, recorded a series of so-called "ambient" albums, music of a quietude, designed to compliment rather than compete with the sounds of life. Today hip-hop producers use street noise in their musical fabric and DJs use vinyl LP surface noise to communicate nostalgia and authenticity.

    In a sense, Cage gave musicians aesthetic permission, spiritual encouragement even, to go beyond the tonalities of standard instrumentation and engage with the infinite possibilities of sound. While he composed prolifically until his death in 1992 at the age of 79, Cage remained more well-known for his ideas than his music, and the enigmatic 4'33" is the ultimate expression of those ideas.

    "The most important piece is my silent piece," he affirmed. "I always think of it before I write the next piece." One critic called it "the pivotal composition of this century." Pianist David Tudor called it "one of the most intense listening experiences you can have."

    But all this puts a weightiness on 4'33" that seems at odds with its playful sense of simply being allied to the world. As Cage writes at the end of his Silence, "I've spent many pleasant hours in the woods conducting performances of my silent piece, transcriptions — that is, for an audience of myself."' By inviting us to do the same, Cage transformed the art of music, and the art of listening, irrevocably.

  13. #415
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    This book is a well- written and researched book about the genesis and impact of 4'33"

    No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33"
    By Kyle Gann

    NoSuchThing.jpg

    With Cage in mind, Susan Sontag wrote in 1969, "The notions of silence, emptiness, reduction, sketch out new prescriptions for looking, hearing, etc." This radical vision of the artistic and experiential potency of silence is at the heart of Kyle Gann's investigation of 4'33", No Such Thing as Silence. The former Village Voice new-music critic examines the ways in which Cage's piece was and is boosted and derided, and the result is an easily digestible yet illuminating volume.

    Gann recognizes that for many listeners, 4'33" seems simply a gag or a provocation. Yet he concludes that really it is "an act of framing, of enclosing environmental and unintended sounds in a moment of attention." To Gann, the piece frames Cage's entire oeuvre, at a stroke communicating his interest in the sounds of nature, the uses and limitations of avant-garde music practice, and his debt to influences from composers like Erik Satie and Morton Feldman to the philosophical writings of Ananda Coomaraswamy and Meister Eckhart....

    While compelling as poetry and primary source, Cage's own volume titled Silence (1961) should be preceded by Gann's fascinating primer. Moments of textbooklike exposition (do we need a definition of the Bauhaus movement?) are counterbalanced by energetic accounts of Cage's avant-garde exploits. Gann's keen understanding of the period allows him to productively explore Cage's misinterpretations (of Zen, of the artwork of peers like Robert Rauschenberg), which informed the composer's practice as well. - J. Gabriel Boylan at Bookforum.com

  14. #416
    Senior Member Isaac Blackburn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post
    (BBC): For many composers and artists at the time and since, 4’33” signalled a seismic re-imagining of the very stuff of art and life, and the constructs that too often divide them....
    How this merger of art and life is actually accomplished is another problem. 4:33 seems more to pull art "down" to the level of ordinary life than in raise life "up" to the level of art. It creates the rapt attentiveness that the audience typically reserves to meaningful narrative presentations and directs it at "ordinary" sounds, but we must remember that this state of attentiveness is not in itself art, nor does it require any piece of music for its inducement. I find myself commonly in such a state after listening to truly great music, and the old masters were aware that music, upon lifting the listener to a purified, refreshed, and more spiritual view of the world, would leave its elevated residue even after the notes had stopped playing.
    Last edited by Isaac Blackburn; Dec-03-2020 at 03:21.

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  16. #417
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac Blackburn View Post
    How this merger of art and life is actually accomplished is another problem. 4:33 seems more to pull art "down" to the level of ordinary life than in raise life "up" to the level of art. It creates the rapt attentiveness that the audience typically reserves to meaningful narrative presentations and directs it at "ordinary" sounds, but we must remember that this state of attentiveness is not in itself art, nor does it require any piece of music for its inducement.
    I believe Cage felt that by redirecting people's attention to the "ordinary" he was helping them see how extraordinary the ordinary is. It's the goal, or at least the effect, of various forms of meditation, which is why I consider 4'33" a meditation exercise and not a piece of music. It merely uses the trappings of a concert as a stimulus. I don't know enough about Cage to say whether he thought this kind of experience was superior to the normal experience of music, or simply another way of appreciating sound. As you say, the attentiveness of meditation is not a form of art, and I'm not at all sure that a quasi-concert situation is even the best way to induce such a state. I suspect not. In any case I don't feel the need for such an inducement, and would rather hear music when that's what I've bought a ticket for.

    BTW, I think that quote, "For many composers and artists at the time and since, 4’33” signalled a seismic re-imagining of the very stuff of art and life, and the constructs that too often divide them....", is a load of horse pucky. "Seismic reimagining of the very stuff of art and life..." Sheesh! And they wonder why we mock them?
    Last edited by Woodduck; Dec-03-2020 at 03:36.

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  18. #418
    Senior Member SanAntone's Avatar
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    I think sentence from the Kyle Gann book sums up 4'33" well, it is "an act of framing, of enclosing environmental and unintended sounds in a moment of attention."

    Btw, if you haven't read Silence, it is a worthwhile read.
    Last edited by SanAntone; Dec-03-2020 at 04:05.

  19. #419
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post
    I think sentence from the Kyle Gann book sums up 4'33" well, it is "an act of framing, of enclosing environmental and unintended sounds in a moment of attention."

    Btw, if you haven't read Silence, it is a worthwhile read.
    Doesn't the fact that this "composition" is published, "performed" and even recorded, completely corrupted the original idea?

    "As Cage writes at the end of his Silence, "I've spent many pleasant hours in the woods conducting performances of my silent piece, transcriptions — that is, for an audience of myself."' By inviting us to do the same, Cage transformed the art of music, and the art of listening, irrevocably."

    The paying audiences sitting in a hall watching the person on stage doing nothing are not doing that, unfortunately.

  20. #420
    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Isaac Blackburn View Post
    How this merger of art and life is actually accomplished is another problem. 4:33 seems more to pull art "down" to the level of ordinary life than in raise life "up" to the level of art. It creates the rapt attentiveness that the audience typically reserves to meaningful narrative presentations and directs it at "ordinary" sounds, but we must remember that this state of attentiveness is not in itself art, nor does it require any piece of music for its inducement. I find myself commonly in such a state after listening to truly great music, and the old masters were aware that music, upon lifting the listener to a purified, refreshed, and more spiritual view of the world, would leave its elevated residue even after the notes had stopped playing.
    I wouldn't say 4'33" is pulling art down to ordinary life, but finding art in the ordinary. A sort of realism in contrast to previous artistic ideals. Art can exist in both. Cage was influenced by Zen, which embraces the ordinary, as also found in haiku.

    Here is my haiku I just made up with 4'33" as its inspiration:

    disgruntled whispering
    the scurrying of feet -
    a motionless pianist
    Last edited by Phil loves classical; Dec-03-2020 at 04:44.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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