Four minutes and thirty three seconds is longer than you think

Cage composed the piece that became know as 4’33” using chance operations, his standard practice at the time. He used the I Ching to determine rhythmic and time durations, this time without performed sounds. He built a three movement piece out of these silent durations—oddly named Four Pieces at the premiere in 1952.

The original intention was to eliminate the composer’s (and performer’s) ego and intention as well as to help the audience focus their attention on the world that is happening around them. This was a further development of ideas he had been working on since Music of Changes. Of course once performed the piece had a life of its own and interpretations varied widely.

Cage later remarked about the length of the piece in I-VI, “I know it sounds absurd, but I may have made a mistake in addition.” He had not checked the timings and included the gaps between movements; a full accurate performance actually lasts longer than 4’33”.


~ by severalfourmany on February 20, 2006.

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