Cage against the machine

Posted by Ken Edwards on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 Under: music
Cage Against the Machine is a campaign to get John Cage's 4'33" to No 1 in the singles charts for Christmas. This may have started as a joke against the ubiquitous X Factor, but it isn't any more - there's a real chance of this happening. And if it does, a number of charities stand to make real money - every purchase benefits the young people's mental health charity C.A.L.M., Youth Music, the British Tinnitus Association, the music therapy group Nordoff Robbins and Sound & Music.

You can download a recording of Cage's famous "silent piece" from a variety of sites. I got mine from Amazon at a cost of 49p. (You can also download an album of several recordings of the piece - this also counts towards the singles charts.)

The whole point of the piece, of course, is that it isn't "silent". Cage found that silence was almost impossible to achieve. What the piece points to is what Buddhists would call "mindfulness".

As I listened to my downloaded recording this late winter afternoon in my study (gathering dusk outside) I noticed the following:

Faints murmur of conversation from the street two storeys below.
Faint, intermittent hum of traffic on the main road a block away.
Gulp of tea in my head (two or three times).
Crunch of my teeth on a cookie.
Slight ringing in my ears throughout.
At one point the backup hard disk attached to my computer powered down - a hum, a low, rhythmic rattling, then a sigh.
(The herring gulls at this time of the year are mostly silent.)

I appreciated this.
I wondered idly why iTunes was indicating the track was 4'52" long. I got my answer as it approached the end - there was a few seconds' worth of applause!

In : music 

Tags: "john cage" 
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Ken Edwards This blog is written by Ken Edwards, co-founder and editor/publisher of Reality Street, and it's mainly about the press. Ken's personal blog can now be found at