John Cage: Creating Silence

John Cage, who thinks that sound and silence both belong to the same continuum, points to conceptual violence, ideas that work in directions perpendicular to the material plane.

“Harmony, so-called, is a forced abstract vertical relation which blots out the spontaneous transmitting nature of each of the sounds forced into it. It is artificial and unrealistic.” John Cage, Silence p. 152

At what point does sound cease and become silent? 4’33”, a Cage composition which consists of a musician not playing an instrument is designed to operate on ideas about what silence is and where it might be found. Silence, so-called, is an ever-diminishing quantity. The closer you look for it the farther away it becomes. It is artificial and unrealistic. Silence is where we assume it to be, which is another way of saying silence is where we want it to be. Cage hates harmony because it creates boundaries that break the intensities of sound. Harmonic gaps are dams that prohibit the exchange of potential energy for kinetic, or worse, hijack the process to spin turbines. Rupture never really happens, only processes of convergence and divergence, an integration of sound and silence.

David Tudor performing 4’33”

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