4’33”, John Cage

4’33’’ is a three-movement composition by American experimental composer John Cage, was one of the most famous and important pieces in the 20-century avant-garde. In 1952, David Tudor sat down in front of a piano for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and did nothing. The audience saw him sit at the piano and to make the beginning of the piece, close the keyboard lid. And later he opened it again to make the end of the first movement. He repeated this processes for second and third movements. 4’33’’ was a distillation of years of working with found sound, noise, and alternative instruments. Cage broke from the history of classical composition and proposed that the primary act of musical performance was not making music, but listening.

This performance was in a prestigious venue and social status of the composer and the performers heightens audience’s expectations of the piece. So the listener was more focused. Furthermore, the rules and regulation were limited audience’s behavior. They had to quietly sit and listen to the “music”. But in today this work could not be avant-garde, the unexpected and provocative freshness only in the premiere. We all known what was it. And people already get the meaning and purpose of this work. So it could not be a modern music. The core idea of this work was the form of a musical performance is listening, rather than made music. 

This performance like the story The emperor’s new clothes:

  • The weavers who made an invisible new suit — Cage wrote the non-existent music
  • A grand ceremony — Classical music concert
  • The people look forward to the emperor’s new clothes — audiences in concert
  • The emperor parades without clothes — The musician performance nothing
  • No one dares to say the fact — No one dares to say the fact

This work also influenced many other works:



John Cage’s 4’33”, Youtube, Viewed on 03 May 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=JTEFKFiXSx4&gt;

4’33” John Cage(Orchestra with Soloist, K2Orch, Live) / 4分33秒 ジョン・ケージ けつおけ!, Youtube, Viewed on 03 May 2017, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=JTEFKFiXSx4&gt;



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