John Cage’s 4’33” (1952)

John Cage, On Silence
Cage's thoughts on silence, sounds, noise, and what can be considered music. 

Filmed at the Barbican Centre, 2004

John Cage is incredible. Together with Robert Rauschenberg and Merce Cunningham, Cage was inspired by chance, improvisation, randomness, and the use of bodies or unconventional objects to articulate mundane events through happenings, installations, music, and dance. Each artist drew the viewer into the "frame," often discarding a clear narrative, therefore heightening awareness as interpretations remain flexible. One of Rauschenberg's first shows was the collective of abstract, monochromatic canvases "White Paintings" (1951). Hung in the Stable Gallery in New York, these canvases were meant to express the essentials of painting, but they also functioned as receptors or screens for the unique shadows, the presence, of those attending the show. This created constant dynamism in what would normally be a static display. This is very similar to Cage's silent composition 4'33 in which the sounds of the audience become the performance. With each new audience the piece mutates.

Rauschenberg and his "White Paintings"

Merce Cunningham was one of the first choreographers to take daily routines, such as waiting for the bus, and integrate them into balletic movements. Rauschenberg designed the sets and costumes, while Gage did the music and visuals. When the artists worked together, they deviated from the standards of production teams in that they did not communicate their plans until a performance or a piece was about to begin. 

 Cage, Cunningham, and Rauschenberg

 Choreography by Cunningham, sets and costumes by Rauschenberg (hey, there's the Parthenon!)


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