john cage 4'33"

 

John Cage’s 1952 avant-garde musical composition 4’33’’ challenged the dichotomy of noise/sound and silence as the “absence of all sound or noise.”  In his piece, Cage creates three distinct movements in which the musician does not play a note; instead, the performer and audience sit in “silence” for a total of 4 minutes and 33 seconds. 

When critics described 4’33’’ as “silent,” Cage retorted, “they missed the point, there is no such thing as silence", and he harkened back to his inspiration for the piece: a 1951 visit to Harvard’s anechoic chamber, in which one could purportedly experience the absence of all sound, i.e. utter silence.  While there, absent any external noise, Cage did not experience silence, but instead heard the beating of his own heart, the blood pulsing through his veins, the varying pitch of his nervous system. He concluded, “Try as we might to make silence, we cannot. One need not fear the future of music.”  And likewise one need not fear the future of humankind. 

For, despite the attempts of all the oppressive forces to create it, there is truly no such thing as silence.  Maps of Silence is a tribute to the victims and survivors of times in which silence was used as a tool of oppression.  By experiencing their stories, we see, as John Cage did, that there is no such thing as silence. 

 

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