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often described as a silent piece, 4'33" isn't silent at all. While the performer makes as little sound as possible, Cage breaks traditional boundaries by shifting attention from the stage to the audience and even beyond the concert hall. You soon become aware of a huge amount of sound, ranging from the mundane to the profound, from the expected to the surprising, from the intimate to the cosmic –shifting in seats, riffling programs to see what in the world is going on, breathing, the air conditioning, a creaking door, passing traffic, an airplane, ringing in your ears, a recaptured memory. This is a deeply personal music, which each witness creates to his/her own reactions to life. Concerts and records standardize our responses, but no two people will ever hear 4'33" the same way. It's the ultimate singalong: the audience (and the world) becomes the performer. It's an invitation, not a command 4'33" fills a crucial slot in history. Music began as an imitation of natural sounds and human voices but then became increasingly stylized. Cage brilliantly brings the process full circle, bridging the cultural distance that has developed between conventional performance and the sounds of nature where it all began. The second hallmark is staying power. I've heard Mozart's dozen mature piano concertos dozens of times each over dozens of years, but right now I can recall only a few of their melodies. I heard the Cage piece just once (and three decades ago), but I remember it so vividly. concerts shouldn't erect a barrier between art and the outside world but should rekindle our partnership with nature, and4'33" empowers us to take charge of ourselves, to trust our own instincts, to make our own judgements, to live our own lives. that music shouldn't be an escape from reality but a tribute to the genius of mankind it's so hard to separate the brilliance from the dross, the true innovators from the screwballs, the serious artists from the pretenders. Without a basis to serve as a frame of reference, informed opinions are difficult to develop or justify (or perhaps all opinions become equally valid). Without a basis to serve as a frame of reference, informed opinions are difficult to develop or

justify (or perhaps all opinions become equally valid). we all crave the familiarity of repetition, whether it's coming home after a long trip, seeing long-lost friends at a reunion, or the structure of a song in which the same chorus comes around after each verse. Really modern music lacks this comforting assurance. The artists producing really new, innovative stuff nowadays are writing and playing for extremely small, isolated circles and garner virtually no notice in the music press. Cage's 4'33" may strike us as the radical fringe, but remember: it's already a halfcentury old. What's happened since then? about how our emotional reaction to music is premised upon the degree to which a piece follows the organic laws of nature; respect those natural laws and novelty can fascinate, but stray too far and the result is alienation. But once we've arrived at the point where extreme dissonance, incomprehensible rhythms, bizarre synthetic noises and even random events are accepted as not just spicy garnishes but the entire meal, fully equivalent to carefully-prepared traditional elements, what's left? If we accept Cage's 4'33" as valid music (and I truly do), then what do we do for an encore? 5'28"? 6'14"? Is the spate of stuff that followed Cage (ie: Yoko Ono's early output) an extension or a regression (or worse, just imitation)? With music, like other significant events, I truly believe that the impact of a strong initial exposure is often only compromised by repetition. For example, despite its excellence, I won't see Schindler's List again. The first weekend of its release I saw it with an elderly audience whose deeply emotional reaction created an overwhelmingly moving experience which I could never hope to replicate. For a similar reason, I've never tried to hear the Lucier and Reich pieces again after my initial encounter and over the years my recollection may have become more wishful thinking than an accurate recollection. But to me, at least, that's a worthwhile tradeoff. The gift of these works is a profound but fragile lasting memory that another hearing could ruin; hopefully that's a testament to their value as legitimate art. All I can say in conclusion is this: as with all music, what really matters is to preserve and disseminate works that have the potential to make a positive and lasting contribution to humanity

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