1199: Silence

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All music is just performances of 4'33" in studios where another band happened to be playing at the time.
Title text: All music is just performances of 4'33" in studios where another band happened to be playing at the time.


John Cage in 1988 (from Wikimedia Commons)

4'33" is a 1952 composition by American avant-garde composer John Cage consisting of four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. More specifically, 4'33" consists entirely of faint ambient sounds coming from the environment, while all the players silently hold their instruments. The noise of the audience is considered part of the composition. It is Cage's most famous work, and the subject of many music jokes. Note that John Cage wrote plenty of other non-silent things.

Megan is using an app on her smartphone that analyzes music that is playing and uses an online database to figure out what it is; popular real-world examples include Shazam and SoundHound. She does this in an empty room, correctly matching 4'33". Cueball attempted to use the same app in 1192: Humming, but Megan hacked it there.

The title text refers to the fact that since 4'33" is composed of the ambient sounds in an environment, if that environment is a recording studio, live music venue etc. the ambient sound is a band playing another song.


[Megan is walking with a phone in her hand.]
[Megan stops.]
[Megan raises her phone.]
Phone: Identify song recorded
Phone: > LIVE [Beta]
[Megan is in an empty room.]
Phone: Listening...
[The phone screen.]
Positive match:
John Cage

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What are the chances that: that empty room is an anechoic chamber? 04:38, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

plain walls..plain floor...virtually zeroXseo (talk) 09:29, 15 April 2013 (UTC)
Besides, 4'33" was not meant for anechoic chambers, Cage specifically talks about all the "sound and music" going on while the piano player is "doing nothing". 4'33" is separated into 3 parts, in which the piano player is also supposed to open and close the piano. --Pnariyoshi (talk) 14:22, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

I may have had a professor in college show us a recording of 4'33", I can honestly say it was the least usefull 4'33" minutes of my academic career.... The argument we had over if this was artistic shortly afterwards was much more entertaining however. 04:57, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

My orchestra teacher introduced the piece to my class a couple months ago-it was easily one of the most boring moment I experienced in that class. 42.book.addict (talk) 23:10, 2 February 2024 (UTC)

Hmm... if we know the room is 4'33", couldn't we use that to figure out how tall Megan is? Just a thought. 12:37, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

4'33" I believe is the length of the song. Not feet and inches.

Do you guys think the title text might be a reference to Parks and Rec's "Jazz plus Jazz equals Jazz"? --Pnariyoshi (talk) 14:23, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

There is a controversy whether 4′33″ (4 mins 33 secs) was the intended duration. The original manuscript is lost, the first performance lasted 4′33″ (and there is a transcript of it with the exact duration of each movement shown), and later editions only show three movements “tacet”. Cage himself said (though much later), “the work may be performed by any instrumentalist or combination of instrumentalists and last any length of time”. -- 14:30, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

Uh, what? You can buy sheet music for 4'33" (!) and it's in Cage's own handwriting. Whether it's the "original manuscript" or not, the duration we have know was definitely okayed by Cage. Alpha (talk) 15:48, 15 April 2013 (UTC)
4'33"=273=absolute temperature zero. This is the "standard" explanation of this length. 15:41, 29 July 2014 (UTC)
For clarity, 4'33" is minute and second notation. 4 minutes, 33 seconds. Which is also 273 seconds. And if you put a negative sign in front of it and a "°C" behind it: -273°C, which is "absolute 0" (0 in Kelvin); the theorized coldest anything could be in our universe. I only bring this up because, as an American, I think of 4'33" as being 4 foot, 33 inches. Which is weird on its own. lcarsos_a (talk) 16:29, 29 July 2014 (UTC)
I tend to prefer the radio edit, titled 3'44". Whereas the extended dance remix 7'20" has a nice beat but completely misses the point. - Frankie (talk) 16:26, 17 April 2013 (UTC)
If this wiki had mod points, I'd upvote you.CityZen (talk) 03:15, 20 April 2013 (UTC)

Perhaps the alt text is being overanalyzed. Is it not more likely to be just a sarcastic comment that all music is coincidental ambient noise interfering with the silence? MegsyS (talk) 14:43, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

I read it as more a semantic middle-ground between the (current) main explanation and yours. Instead of 'making all music have Cage's work "embedded" into it.', it means that 'all music(1) is Cage's work with someone else playing (other) music inside it, ambiently'. (1 - Any given four minutes and thirty-three seconds of music, that is. Whether that includes a subset of the longer 'embedded' piece, a superset of a a shorter embedded piece or a dislocated translation/truncation of shared 'sound space'. IYSWIM. YMMV.) 17:30, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

I wrote this long before Cage did, and no one ever gave me any credit. Just because he was already famous does not make this a useful composition. 23:21, 15 April 2013 (UTC)

[1] 20:26, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

When out and about, the other day, I realised that I might well have 'caught' 4'33" as a mindworm. Every bit of 'silence' with just ambient noises. Awkward... 23:27, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

Really, we get it, reality is artistic. That doesn't mean you have some deeper understanding of it. It just means you made a basic observation. Observational =/= Creative. And art requiring an artist requires creativity. Art without an artist is reality. And you can't take credit for reality. 20:10, 4 December 2014 (UTC)

I strongly disagree that the environment has to be a recording studio for the statement in the title text to be true. It could be any situation in which a band is playing. I will edit in 24 hours if nobody objects. AmbroseChapel (talk) 00:29, 31 August 2017 (UTC)