70 Years of 4’33”

Source: Perfect Sound Forever.

Seventy years ago this month–on August 29, 1952–John Cage’s signature composition 4’33” was premiered by pianist David Tudor in Woodstock, New York, at the Maverick Concert Hall. Although the initial reception for the piece was hostile, over time it has come to be seen as a key work of the postwar avant-garde not only for its formal audacity, but for the conceptual questions it raised and continues to raise about sound, silence, listening, compositional intention, and what counts or doesn’t count as a musical performance. In what follows, I attempt to reveal one more layers of meaning in this hardy perennial of a composition.