John Cage was born in Los Angeles on September 5, 1912. Cage took to writing as a child and was also given private piano lessons as a fourth grader. His mother owned a crafts shop and Cage took a liking to painting and radio broadcasting, which he started while in Boy Scouts. Cage was the valedictorian of his high school class in 1928. At the time, he was only sixteen years old. After graduation, he enrolled in Pomona College in Claremont, California. Repulsed by the regimentation of college he dropped out in 1930 and then spent two years in Europe, studying under the piano virtuoso and composer Lazare Lévy (Blecha, 2010).
John Cage’s music is often a mix of the two extremes of our auditory sense, extremely loud and completely silent. He is credited with the musical idea of “playing the silences” in music, stressing the importance of both sound and silence to form a complete piece of music. Not just a collection of notes but a full range of sound. The piece known as “4’33”” is one such piece (Blecha, 2010).
The piece 4’33” is so named because of the length of time the piece is meant to be played in, entirely in silence. The performer sits in front of a piano and keeps time and tempo for the entirety of the performance. Sometimes doing nothing at all; sometimes simply keeping time in complete silence stressing Cage’s belief in the importance of pauses and periods of silence in music. In August 1952, in Woodstock, New York, Cage debuted 4'33". It amounted to having the pianist sit at a piano with a stopwatch in his hand, and remain silent and motionless for the entire four minutes and thirty-three seconds. When the performance reached its end the pianist bowed, and left the stage, much to the surprise and shock of the audience. Supposedly, Cage’s own mother began to question whether her son had finally gone too far. This piece is celebrated both for its brilliance and abhorred for it’s lack of musical content (Blecha, 2010).
Blecha, P. (2010,...