4'33" (4:51)

Cover of Cage Against the Machine

From Cage Against the Machine and 1 other release

4′33″ (Four minutes, thirty-three seconds) is a three-movement composition by American composer John Cage (1912–1992). It was composed in 1952 for any instrument (or combination of instruments), and the score instructs the performer not to play the instrument during the entire duration of the piece. Although commonly perceived as “four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence”, the piece actually consists of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed. Over the years, 4′33″ became Cage’s most famous and most controversial composition.

Conceived in 1948, while Cage was working on Sonatas and Interludes, 4′33″ was for Cage the epitome of aleatoric music and of his idea that any sounds constitute, or may constitute, music. It was also a reflection of the influence of Zen Buddhism, which Cage studied since the late 1940s. In a 1982 interview, and on numerous other occasions, Cage has stated that 4′33″ is, in his opinion, his most important work.

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