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4'33″ (pronounced "Four minutes, thirty-three seconds") is an experimental musical work by avant-garde composer John Cage. Cage wrote 4'33" while going through a period of intense study of Zen Buddhism, under the premise that the composer is giving up his piece to chance-- whatever is heard during the performance is the music.
This is a transcript of 4'33", as performed by the Poland Symphony Orchestra.
- Musicians enter.
- Applause continues.
- Applause continues for like, 23 minutes. The crowd is excited.
- Audience shoots their fucks up.
- Conductor leans forward, nods at musicians.
- Total silence.
- Crescendo to f.
- Musicians turn the page on their completely blank sheet music.
- An offstage pianist plays an impromptu interjection. An awkward pause ensues.
- Roaring applause from about ten people. They stop soon thereafter, embarrassed.
- Little girl in audience:"Daddy, can we go home already?"
- Daddy:"lol, stfu n00b. respect mr cage"
- Musicians fall into complete silence.
- Crunch, crunch.
- Crunch, crunch.
- 2:15. The trumpets don't come in.
- Random dude: "Fuck, what am I doing here? I could be at home editing Uncyclopedia."
- A can of beer pops open.
- Musicians move in their seats, which means the second movement is over.
- People just get up and leave.
- Yawn. The musicians leave as well.
- The conductor gives up and leaves too. The symphony doesn't finish the piece. Not like anyone could tell or anything.
- A trumpet comes in. Dumb bastard.
Performance history of 4'33"
Difficulties of performance and recording
Orchestras and musical groups the world over have oft-commented on the difficulties of performing the work accurately, ie staying in total and utter silence for 4 minutes 33 seconds. Especially as musicians are so fond of alcohol and curry, it's very difficult to get through a performance or recording of the piece without somebody burping, puking, farting, or dribbling saliva onto their frilly what-cha-ma-call-it on their dress shirt.
Cage himself was said to be highly-irritated at this, and is on record as saying, "The day somebody plays my beloved 4'33" accurately, I'll never talk, make any noises or do anything ever again".
After he said that, orchestra and chamber group recordings of the work showed a marked increase in quality, presumably as the musicians were hoping that by finally producing an accurate performance, they'd shut Cage up forever, and never have to bear his company, nor endure the pain and torment of performing one of his new works, ever again.
"Nothing like a bit of reverse psychology to give musicians a kick up the arse eh?" commented Cage.
The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra attempted to performe the piece in 2004 on BBC Radio 3 but to Cage's annoyance some bright spark had set music to be played if ever silence was detected for a prolonged period of time. BBC bosses remedied the situation by employing ninjas to switch off all the radios of the 73 listeners of BBC Radio 3 for the duration of the piece.
The principal violist and leader of the London Symphony Orchestra, Lord Alexei Dobradoosky, was recently sacked from his position after he made a noise during a live performance of 4'33".
LSO principal conductor, Professor Sir Corporal Trevor Wilhelm van Gorgonblodsky, said, "Every bleeding time we play it, he screws it up by burping, scratching his balls, or shaking uncontrollably and gibbering. I'm glad to see the back of him, wanker."
Dobradoosky explained, "It's such a difficult work to perform, so nerve-racking. I feel under intense pressure to get the silence absolutely perfectly correct. It's not easy. He could have given me another chance at least, piss artist."
Some people felt it was appropriate to feel offended by this piece. Those people were obviously wankers.
Sensational new rehearsal method
As a result, music rehearsal specialist David Berkmeister has created a new rehearsal method to refine musicians' ability to stay completely silent while performing the work. In order to enforce strict silence during the piece, if any musicians make any noises whatsoever during rehearsals, a transvestite homosexual enters the room wearing only a stretched lycra leotard, and proceeds to whip the offending musician. Further transgressions can result in even more severe punishments.
Responses to this new method have been varied. Violinist Michaela Snatchit Pratchitt said, "After going through that, I'll never be able to stomach making any noises during 4'33" ever again. Just the thought of him coming in and... UGH! God, it makes me freeze! Well done Berkmeister!"
Some reactions have been unexpected however. Gay flautist Gideon McGibbon said, "If he wants to come over to my place any time, I'll make noises for him all night long."
New deluxe box-set collection
To celebrate the 433rd month since the work was first performed, Deutsche Gramophone have produced a 4-CD, 6-hour boxed set of all recordings and live performances of the work, complete with photographs, interviews with performers, and audience opinions and reactions.
Also included are excerpts from rehearsals of the work, documenting for the first-time some of the classic mistakes and mishaps that have beleaguered conductors and performers for so long, including:
- A rehearsal by Simon Rattle and the CBSO, when, on 4'02", a swarm of wasps attacked Rattle's hair.
- A rehearsal with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Phil, during which Bernstein can be audibly heard sniffing cocaine and commenting, "God I'm sick of hearing this".
- The classic original rehearsal sessions with the John Cage Sextet, during which Cage's friend, colleague and former mistress Morton Feldman is heard to fart close to one of the microphones. Trumpet legend Smiles Davis is then heard to mutter, "You fat smelly wanker".
Note for note transcriptions of each of these performances are also now available from Fab And Even Fabber Music.
Included in the new deluxe box-set collection will be audio commentary by prominent mute contemporary music artists.
The Barbican Centre in London recently held a special week-long 4'33" retrospective, with an entire week of performances of the work, plus analysis and discussion from top music academics and critics.
Also featured were performances of some of the classic transcriptions of the work. Sir Simon Rattle flew in especially from Swaziland to re-perform his infamous version of the work, for which a nest of specially bred Outer Mongolian Killer Wasps were used. The event was sponsored by the United Nations "Save the Wasps" campaign, and was a great success for the sponsors, although Sir Simon Rattle and several musicians had to be rushed to hospital immediately after the performance due to multiple wasp stings.
The event caused immediate contoversy as Rattle was able to use his exorbitant conductor's fee to check himself into a private BUPA clinic and get world-class treatment, whilst the ordinary musicians were put on a 2-year National Health Service waiting list, and have since died.
- Shot your fuck up
- John Cage
- An article that contains nothing but a full stop
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