On August 29, 1952, David Tudor walked onto the stage of the Maverick Concert Hall, near Woodstock, New York, sat down at the piano, and, for four and a half minutes, made no sound. He was performing “4’33”,” a conceptual work by John Cage. It has been called the “silent piece,” but its purpose is to make people listen. “There’s no such thing as silence,” Cage said, recalling the première. “You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”
Among John Cage’s many works, this is probably the one he is best known for. And in some ways it’s a shame. This conceptual work was created to show people, as Cage said, that “There’s no such thing as silence.”
Nearly six decades after the work came into the world, “4’33” ” is still dismissed as “absolutely ridiculous,” “stupid,” “a gimmick,” and the “emperor’s new clothes”
The problem is that this piece has been put on a pedestal, whereas Cage certainly didn’t want that. It was a statement he made at a time, one that cannot be reproduced.
Read this article for more insight on John Cage’s music, and a discussion of a couple of books about Cage, one specifically about 4’33”, and a biography of the composer.