Cage the no silence – 4’33 » de John Cage PDF of his idea that any sounds may constitute music. It will be three or four-and-a-half minutes long—those being the standard lengths of « canned » music and its title will be Silent Prayer. It will open with a single idea which I will attempt to make as seductive as the color and shape and fragrance of a flower. At the time, however, Cage felt that such a piece would be « incomprehensible in the Western context, » and was reluctant to write it down: « I didn’t wish it to appear, even to me, as something easy to do or as a joke.
« Vous ne croyez pas que cette fois, John est allé trop loin ? » demanda la mère de John Cage suite à la première représentation de 4’33 » en 1952. Aucun son ne s’était alors fait entendre. Du moins, aucun son issu de l instrument du pianiste David Tudor. Et pour cause, puisque sa partition ne comportait aucune note. Par contre, de multiples bruits, grincements de chaises et autres éternuements, étaient susceptibles d’envahir le silence. John Cage accomplissait là l’une des pièces de l’avant-garde musicale les plus influentes. Cette uvre exerça même une emprise bien au-delà du strict cadre de la musique. Son retentissement fut énorme. De ce moment unique, Kyle Gann retrace l’histoire et la postérité. Il dresse la généalogie de cette uvre inouïe, de ses origines jusqu’à son héritage contemporain dans la musique pop. Ce faisant, il dessine un portrait extrêmement sensible du compositeur, parvient à nous communiquer la fascination qu’il a exercée sur ses contemporains et à retracer la genèse de cette composition, qui est à rechercher autant dans la musique que dans les philosophies occidentales et orientales. Par le prisme de ces quelques minutes, une fresque intellectuelle, sensible et culturelle se déploie sous nos yeux. L’on rencontre Erik Satie, Marcel Duchamp, côtoyons Arnold Schoenberg, Robert Rauschenberg, Philip Glass, plongeons dans Henry David Thoreau avant de se ressourcer dans les philosophies zen. Un livre plein de bruit et de fureur.
I wanted to mean it utterly and be able to live with it. In 1951, Cage visited the anechoic chamber at Harvard University. An anechoic chamber is a room designed in such a way that the walls, ceiling and floor absorb all sounds made in the room, rather than reflecting them as echoes. Such a chamber is also externally sound-proofed. Another cited influence for this piece came from the field of the visual arts. Alphonse Allais’s 1897 Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man, consisting of twenty-four blank measures. Allais was an associate of Erik Satie, and given Cage’s profound admiration for Satie, it is possible that Cage was inspired by the Funeral March.
In Gaston Leroux’s 1903 novel La Double Vie de Théophraste Longuet, silent concerts are given by the Talpa people. Erwin Schulhoff’s 1919 « In futurum », a movement from the Fünf Pittoresken for piano. The Czech composer’s meticulously notated composition is made up entirely of rests. In Harold Acton’s 1928 book Cornelian a musician conducts « performances consisting largely of silence ».
In 1947, jazz musician Dave Tough joked that he was writing a play in which « A string quartet is playing the most advanced music ever written. It’s made up entirely of rests. Suddenly, the viola man jumps up in a rage and shakes his bow at the first violin. Lout,’ he screams, ‘you played that last measure wrong. Since the Romantic Era composers have been striving to produce music that could be separated from any social connections, transcending the boundaries of time and space. 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. David Tudor on August 29, 1952, in Maverick Concert Hall, Woodstock, New York, as part of a recital of contemporary piano music. The piece remains controversial to this day, and is seen as challenging the very definition of music.
First, the choice of a prestigious venue and the social status of the composer and the performers automatically heightens audience’s expectations for the piece. According to Cage, duration is the essential building block of all of music. This distinction is motivated by the fact that duration is the only element shared by both silence and sound. As a result, the underlying structure of any musical piece consists of an organized sequence of « time buckets ». The third point is that the work of music is defined not only by its content but also by the behavior it elicits from the audience. In the case of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, this would consist of widespread dissatisfaction leading up to violent riots.
Several versions of the score exist: There are four known later versions, one of which is in the New York Public Library. Tudor’s attempt at re-creating the original score is reproduced in Fetterman 1996, 74. The so-called First Tacet Edition: a typewritten score, lists the three movements using Roman numbers, with the word « TACET » underneath each. A note by Cage describes the first performance and mentions that « the work may be performed by any instrumentalist or combination of instrumentalists and last any length of time.