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There is a piece, possibly the most famous of all American Avant Garde musical pieces, called 4'33. It's John Cage's most ambitious piece, and one that is worthy of study, and perhaps derision. I came to it a long time ago, thoroughly got it, but also managed to re-evaluate it to the point where I have made a most serious difference in opinion on it.
You see, 4'33 isn't the most important piece of Avant Garde music in American History; 4'33 is one of the most important pieces of absurdist theatre in American History.
You see, the idea is the player takes their seat, does the set-up as they would with any other piece or performance, and then settles in for four minutes and thirty0three seconds of silence. They turn the page on the score, they make motions as if this is a regular piece, but they play nothing. The theory is the space defines the music; the sounds made by the audience, by the humming of lights, by the heartbeat of the player, all equal the sound of the piece. This is the single most indeterminate piece of music ever. There is no role of choice made by the composer other than to create the piece in the first place. This makes sense, no?
You see, as Cage missed in his thinking, performance music is no longer the only form of music, and this was true in his time with recording. 4'33 of silence on tape does not equal the performance of such, it is ignorable and passes. As this is a stage piece, it has 0 meaning if not initiated by a performer, it is making a statement through presentation, and thus it is theatre. The performer need not be a musician, they merely need to be present. That, at least in my eyes, makes this a theatre piece.
Much like that old chestnut about whether a tree falling in the woods with no one around making sound, there IS an answer if you just look at it for a minute. Yes, the tree makes a sound, even if that sound is inaudible, but not necessarily noise, which requires an observer. With the same idea in mind, Music REQUIRES the arrangement of sounds in a form, and the absense of such makes it NOT music. Yes, determinancy IS a part of music, though not necessarily strict determinancy. Think of the difference between the warming up of an orchestra and the performance itself. No one would call the warm-up music, but it is sound, hell, typically is is guided sound of a specific pattern, but it's not music, but it is also performance, without doubt.
Klaus at Gunpoint
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