Friday, 12 November 2010


Talking, then, of the musical composition John Cage himself considers 'his most important work'. You know what this sounds like, and if you don't then be quiet for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and you'll get a sense of it. Two thoughts about the title, though.

Do we take it 'seriously'? That what is significant about '4'33"' is its implied trajectory of 'falling away'?--from 4 to 3 to 3 to (we extrapolate) 2 and 2 and 2, and four '1's, like the pillars in a temple of silence, and so towards the emptines and silence of '0'?

I prefer the second reading: the jokey one. Underpinning this piece of 'empty' music is a grosser, more material and indeed bathetic sense of 'emptiness'. From a composer called John we turn to the gospel of John, 4:33 and discover: 'Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat?'

Silence is holy, and spiritual; but silence is also all the ambient rustling and coughing and grumbling of stomachs. Silence is also a trope for: 'hey, I'm peckish.'

1 comment:

TheAnchorBend said...

Reminds me of Die Grosse Stille [Into Great Silence]. One of the things I loved about the film was the way in which both the day and the monastic community are structured around eating as much as prayer or study--who eats, who prepares food, who delivers it . . .