I recommend you to experience 4’33” by John Cage fully before reading further.

P.S. Don’t stop midway!!!

A performance by William Marx of John Cage’s 4’33”

4’33” by John Cage is usually performed by a soloist or an ensemble. The piece constitutes of three parts. All parts are timed and you can notice the beginning of each part in the opening of the piano lid in the video above. The indication “tacet” in the music sheet notifies the instruments to stay silent.

Every musician appreciates a pause. But, is 4’33” of silence music? “There’s no such thing as silence,” Cage said. Cage in this composition challenged the traditional outlook on music. Rather than overlooking the ambient noise in a performance, he exaggerated it in his 4’33” and forced the audience to listen and participate in the performance with random sounds – the shuffling feet, a confused whispering, a baby crying, the uncomfortable cough, the raindrops on the window, the wind or an occasional mobile ringtone. It is interesting to note that you can never predict or interpret “musically” the performance of 4’33” for no two performances of 4’33” will be same. All that is left is anticipation. Experiences of 4’33” vary from confusion, crazy, amusement, revelation to downright annoying.

Personally I am still confused where 4’33” finds its place. Is it a piece of music or art or social experiment? But who am I to judge? Composers break norm and set trends. Beethoven did it with his ‘Eroica’ and the world never saw music the same way again. 4’33” is intriguing and I found myself listening to it again and it was never the same.

Listen and let us know your opinion and experience on 4’33”.