Review Summary: Concept without substance.
Is silence music? Can the lack of sound have the qualities of music, and create emotions that music can? It's somewhat possible--every piece of music melds sound and lack of sound. Most pieces of music are heavy on sound and light on silence, otherwise the piece has no substance. 4'33"
is definitely heavy on the silence part--it's complete silence. It's music for the concept, to entertain you once, music for the sake of music. Throughout the whole piece, not one sound is heard. Every second is utter silence, which was a total shock to the audience at the first public performances. It questions the boundaries of what's music and what isn't, crossing into philosophical territory that makes you think what music actually is, which is what John Cage intended.
John Cage is a highly lauded and influential composer, exploring the realms of experimental music like few others in the 1930s to the 1960s. 4'33"
is perhaps his best known composition, which isn't hard to understand. In its day it was one of the most outlandish ideas to "play" four and half minutes of complete quiet. However, John Cage believed that every second he would be immersed in sound no matter how quiet a room would seem. He visited an anechoic chamber, which is a completely sound-proofed room. All sounds are absorbed by the walls, yet he head his own blood circulation and nervous system, leading him to believe that there is no such thing as total silence.
But what, exactly, is the point? When you get down to it, Cage wrote this piece to prove his point of silence still being full of sound. Because of that, the music doesn't have substance, any at all. Even the biggest music of music snobs can agree they don't listen to this piece everyday and is genuinely excited and interested every time to hear it. Yes, the concept is slightly ridiculous, yet while the music doesn't, the concept itself manages to make a large statement and illicit responses from the audience.
David Tudor, the man to first play John Cage's piece live sat at the piano, closed the lit, and sat more. The experimental and bizarre nature of Cage's piece left everyone flabbergasted. The concept itself of the piece is somewhat witty and interesting, yet that's all it is--concept. Music that is total silence isn't able to do anything yet exist, and can't be anything but a concept. Once the initial surprise is worn off, all that's left is the statement the music is trying to make, and isn't something you'll want to hear over and over. Once is enough.