24 Music Can you hear ““4:33”?”“”
Rob Fehily critiques John Cage’s ever contentious piece proving yet again silence can garner as much controversy as any shout!
Whilst recently traversing the vir- tual prairies of YouTube, I hap- pened across a rather curious video entitled "4:33". Little did I know that a bored, apathetic click would be the first step in a rather com- pelling, particularly twisted stair- case. It turns out that 4:33 is a piece of music written by an American composer by the name of John Cage.
As I watched, and listened, my
initial lethargy was gradually su- perseded by a hybrid of intense in- terest
and vitriolic, bitter
disappointment. I am no expert on music composition or theory, but I firmly believe that my visual and aural faculties were not picking up anything which one could verily label 'music' in the embarrassing four and a half minutes which I en- dured.
Not one seat lies vacant in the
Barbican Hall. The orchestra sits waiting, poised to pluck and beat and blow out some heavenly, celes- tial melody at the gesture of the conductor, Lawrence Foster, who
It turns out that Cage 'composed'
4:33 as a piece in three movements where the performer (or, in this case, performers) do absolutely nothing so that they and the audi-
Silence. Perplexed, my first port-of-call
(ashamedly) was the comments un- derneath the video. My confusion multiplied upon reading 'I can play this lol XD', 'This shit is retarded', and 'wtf?'. Giving up on these com- ments to expand my knowledge of what was going on, I inspected the video description. What I read an- noyed me beyond accurate report.
walks up to the podium amidst a cacophony of applause. I am ade- quately equipped for something epic. To my dismay, what came next viciously betrayed my initial expectation. If I am Othello, then John Cage is most certainly Iago.
Foster opens the first page of the
score. Silence. I wait. Silence. A cough in the audience. A shuffle. Silence. I wait. A sniff. Silence.
ence can absorb the sounds around them. Therefore, the most torpid of ergophobes can still 'perform' it; this I find quite silly. To add salt to the already pulsating gash in my heart, Foster and his troop of mon- keys are treated to a thunderous ap- plause after the 273 seconds of madness. Being wont to hearing the sharp vibration of stings and the warm flow of air through care- fully crafted channels when I hear orchestral music, I grappled with this extraordinary experience in my mind for a short time. These are my thoughts.
Firstly, what interests me so
much about this piece is that it challenges our definition of 'mu- sic'. The Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines music as "the art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion." How- ever, an extremely significant mu- sical
exigency which this
definition ignores is the idea of si- lence; this could be in the form of silence between two movements of a piece, or the silence of an instru- ment when it encounters a rest in its sheet music. So in composing a piece which has nothing but rests, I believe Cage draws this to our at- tention, albeit in a particularly rad- ical way.
Teenage Dream a bubblegum-pop hit
Áine Organ vivisects Katy Perry’s album Teenage Dream as one of the big hitters of this summer’s charts toppers.
The pop princess has returned with a second album, with songs just as catchy as Hot’n’Cold. Her sassy voice hits falsetto with hardly any effort and she has a number one on the Billboard 200 to show for it. Perry and her many producers, in- cluding Greg Wells, Max Martin and Tricky Stewart, made sure her songs connected with her audience and they definitely succeeded. When listening to songs such as ‘The One That Got Away’, or ‘Cal- ifornia Gurls’ for those J1ers, peo- ple listen and bop along and realise while listening: “That happened to me once”. The album cover of Teenage
Dream creates a good girl gone bad image. The sultry Mrs. Brand-to- be lies on clouds of candyfloss. ‘Katy Perry’ is written in, what looks to me like, liquorice sticks. Saving the best for last, the album smelled of fresh strawberries. Not. Whoever is spreading that rumour, please stop! Not only a masterfully crafted
pop tune with a smart hook, the song ‘Teenage Dream’ also con-
tains a rare moment of tenderness for the otherwise bratty bombshell. Perry whispers “You think I’m pretty without any make-up on, you think I’m funny when I tell the punch line wrong” on top of the song’s setting sun guitar strums. Princess of pop later sweetly sings the lines “I finally miss you, my missing puzzle piece, I’m com- plete”. At the risk of massacring my reputation (what reputation?), it must be said: Listening to this song makes you want to feel this way about someone. Although this is most definitely
a party song, I think Katy Perry re- ally connected with her audience. Especially the four words before the chorus: “We’ll be young for- ever”. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be like Peter Pan? 10/10 for wanting to be young for- ever.
While my crystal ball is still a
little foggy, I expect Peacock will still be there when revisiting the lowlights of the decade. This song should surely delve into -7 in the charts, just after ‘If You Seek Amy’
by Britney Spears. In this utterly ridiculous song, Perry transforms from ‘good girl gone bad’ to down- right deranged. This song is not one of Ms. Perry’s finest moments, as she sings about wanting to see some poor lad’s “peacock”. The majority of Katy Perry’s songs are majorly catchy and unfortunately, this song is no different. Note: “I am so unprepared, you've got the finest architecture. End of the rain- bow lookin' treasure, such a sight to see and it's all for me” are not good lines to sing whilst cleaning your house. Your house mate will think you’re a lunatic who likes singing about ‘peacocks’. True story! Unlike Peacock, which has to
be the most awful song since Jed- ward’s version of ‘Under Pres- sure’, ‘Hummingbird Heartbeat’ is a fantastic, up-beat song. Along with this are the happy songs ‘Last Friday Night’ and ‘California Gurls’, which are guaranteed to put anyone in the mood to hit Havanas. ‘The One That Got Away’, ‘Pearl’ and ‘Who Am I Living For’ are equally good songs. They’re slower in tempo and Perry con- nects with her audience through the emotional lyrics. ‘Firework’ is
That said I personally find the
piece to be grossly insulting and mocking of an incredibly rich, elaborate and diverse temporal spectrum of musical evolution and human ingenuity. I witnessed a colourful range of instruments lying dormant, sullen and frus- trated at the hands of able musi- cians who refused to utilise their magnificent capabilities.
The violin, the cello, the drum
and the piano, amongst others - ex- amples of an immeasurably intri- cate human art and testaments to the awesome inventive power of the human brain - sat there, un- used, neglected. Of course on a more intangible level there was also going to waste the abilities of what I am sure were exceptionally talented individuals.
I would say that I understand the
message that Cage is trying to communicate to his listeners with this piece - not only that rests are necessary to music, but also that music's other component is mere sound. Forsooth, I see true value in this realisation; one of the most beautiful aspects of the universe in which we live is that everything vi- brates at a particular frequency. Absolutely every sound we hear fits somewhere into the chromatic scale.
very similar to these songs, except it’s also a good cheer-up song! In contrast to the songs mentioned, Circle the Drain is not on my ‘Most Liked’ list. Perry and pro- ducers used sound effects to the ex- treme, which created an over-all annoying sound. Clearly, the good out-weighs the bad on this fun and feisty album. To buy or not to buy? The fine
and fresh ‘California Gurls’ tum- bled out of nightclubs, bars, shop-
Cage is trying to break out of a
system which doesn't need break- ing out of. It seems to me, consid- ering what could have been done with the orchestra which I sadly saw do literally nothing, that Cage was presented with the greatest, most intricate and amazing wall ever made, which he then de- stroyed with hideous graffiti penises.
September 28th 2010 However, playing a C Major
chord on a piano will sound far dif- ferent to the equivalent Cage-esque alternative. A cough in C, a foot- step in E and a sniff in G will hardly produce 'beauty of form, harmony and expression of emo- tion.'
Many of us now rely on the
tried-and-tested predictions of physical laws to explain the events of the cosmos instead of attributing the swerving of every quark to the intervention of some bearded, sil- ver-haired deity up in the sky. Sim- ilarly, the trusty rules which govern music are there for a reason: they work. Beethoven and Bach, at least to my knowledge, operated within the boundaries set by laws when writing Piano Sonata no. 14 in C# Minor and Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.
ping malls, cars and gyms all sum- mer that ice cream vans every- where got
jealous. It’s an
everlasting gobstopper internation- ally. I can safely predict that all of the fun and fierce songs on the album will be equally as incessant. (My crystal ball isn’t as hazy any- more). Of course, there is the abominable Peacock, but once you unclench your teeth, I promise you that you’ll be singing along.
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