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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 5:57 pm 
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pauldrach wrote:
Thanks for your reply. I can understand anybody who has his doubts regarding the aesthetic quality of 4'33''. Yet there are certain underlying aspects to the piece that I like a lot: the idea of an audience closely listening complete silence, the question whether complete silence could or could not be considered music, the question whether complete silence even exists. I see it as a tribute to the beauty of silence and silence certainly can be one of the most beautiful things at times. The piece may be based on a single idea, that in itself probably is not that impressive an artistic achievement, but it nevertheless is an interesting artistic statement, and I personally like the idea behind it a lot.
Call me close-minded, but those bolded words are exactly why I consider the piece not to be a piece of art at all. It's only worth what it represents, what the idea behind it is, what it "says", indirectly, and not what it actually is (i.e nothing). So it spawns a lot of talk about music, fine, but he could just have asked the questions you mentioned instead of "writing" a piece of music that somehow asks them for him. In a real piece of art you don't need language to pinpoint the meaning of a certain piece, and John Cage's 4'33 is worthless without it. If indeed art has no objective definition, fine, then anything can be called art then anyone can do anything, lot's of people will talk and we'll all forget what it is was all about in the first place: watching or listening what somebody has created, and where anything we can ever say about it will always be inferior in nature to the work itself.


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 6:34 pm 
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This is in response to pauldrach.

I like your analysis that the piece would tend to always be different, because the ambient noise of each crowd, etc., would be different. Knowing what I do about Cage, he would probably tend towards this ideal, rather than making 4'33, as you say “a tribute to silence.”

Regards.


Last edited by musicfunman on Thu Apr 05, 2012 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Thu Apr 05, 2012 6:50 pm 
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This is to Don-Alexi (I’m still not sure how to get my reply to show up as yours has, first quoting pauldrach, etc.).

You're taking me back to grad school at UCLA, in my "Seminar on Music Education" class.

According to Stravinsky, "music is powerless to express anything." What meaning we take from any piece of music is based on our subjective interpretation of it, our feelings at the time, our sophistication as a listener, our cultural orientation toward its harmonies and tonalities, and a host of other subjective factors which continuously vary.

You make a good point that "lot's of people will talk and we'll all forget what it is was all about in the first place: watching or listening what somebody has created, and where anything we can ever say about it will always be inferior in nature to the work itself."

I agree that anything we could say about a piece of art cannot match all the artistic and aesthetic subtleties inherent in that piece of art. That's probably why it's called "art," no matter what medium it's in.

What you said about art having no objective definition, and anything can be called art, and anyone can do anything, reminds me of the first paragraph in Walter Piston's textbook, Twentieth Century Harmony. It goes something like this:

"Any tone can be sounded with any other tone; and any group of tones can be sounded with any other group of tones . . ."

Yep, this is taking me back to grad school at UCLA!

Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:56 am 
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corrections wrote:
pauldrach wrote:
Thanks for your reply. I can understand anybody who has his doubts regarding the aesthetic quality of 4'33''. Yet there are certain underlying aspects to the piece that I like a lot: the idea of an audience closely listening complete silence, the question whether complete silence could or could not be considered music, the question whether complete silence even exists. I see it as a tribute to the beauty of silence and silence certainly can be one of the most beautiful things at times. The piece may be based on a single idea, that in itself probably is not that impressive an artistic achievement, but it nevertheless is an interesting artistic statement, and I personally like the idea behind it a lot.


I don't think the idea is for the audience to be listening to complete silence though (and if it was then the idea is dead on arrival because such is impossible around a large crowd). I think the idea is more the piece is always different because the noises around will be different. I don't think it is necessarily a tribute to silence (and if it was it would be ironically more effective as a recorded piece).


Depends on what you would accept under the moniker complete silence. In a concert setting complete silence will never be completely silent, just as it won't be, when you're listening to it at home on your stereo, and it won't even be completely silent if all sounds from the outside actually could be absorbed as your would then experience the sounds of your own body.


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:01 am 
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Don-Alexei wrote:
Call me close-minded, but those bolded words are exactly why I consider the piece not to be a piece of art at all. It's only worth what it represents, what the idea behind it is, what it "says", indirectly, and not what it actually is (i.e nothing). So it spawns a lot of talk about music, fine, but he could just have asked the questions you mentioned instead of "writing" a piece of music that somehow asks them for him. In a real piece of art you don't need language to pinpoint the meaning of a certain piece, and John Cage's 4'33 is worthless without it. If indeed art has no objective definition, fine, then anything can be called art then anyone can do anything, lot's of people will talk and we'll all forget what it is was all about in the first place: watching or listening what somebody has created, and where anything we can ever say about it will always be inferior in nature to the work itself.

I strongly disagree. 4'33'' is about the actual sound of silence more than anything else. So in a way it is about nothing, but not in the sense of absence of any idea, emotion, even sound, but rather about the actual presence of nothing (nothing being one possible state of something). I don't know whether that makes sense, but I think it is possible to appreciate 4'33'' simply via listening to it.


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 7:03 am 
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musicfunman wrote:
This is in response to pauldrach.

I like your analysis that the piece would tend to always be different, because the ambient noise of each crowd, etc., would be different. Knowing what I do about Cage, he would probably tend towards this ideal, rather than making 4'33, as you say “a tribute to silence.”

Regards.

As I tried to explain those two ideas don't contradict each other. Silence is more than just silent.


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 11:46 am 
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pauldrach wrote:
Don-Alexei wrote:
Call me close-minded, but those bolded words are exactly why I consider the piece not to be a piece of art at all. It's only worth what it represents, what the idea behind it is, what it "says", indirectly, and not what it actually is (i.e nothing). So it spawns a lot of talk about music, fine, but he could just have asked the questions you mentioned instead of "writing" a piece of music that somehow asks them for him. In a real piece of art you don't need language to pinpoint the meaning of a certain piece, and John Cage's 4'33 is worthless without it. If indeed art has no objective definition, fine, then anything can be called art then anyone can do anything, lot's of people will talk and we'll all forget what it is was all about in the first place: watching or listening what somebody has created, and where anything we can ever say about it will always be inferior in nature to the work itself.

I strongly disagree. 4'33'' is about the actual sound of silence more than anything else. So in a way it is about nothing, but not in the sense of absence of any idea, emotion, even sound, but rather about the actual presence of nothing (nothing being one possible state of something). I don't know whether that makes sense, but I think it is possible to appreciate 4'33'' simply via listening to it.
What exactly do you disagree with? I'm trying to explain why I think that saying a piece is "about" some totally abstract idea is not art.
And what exactly is the piece, according to you: nothing at all (what was written), or what you actually hear when it is "performed" (breathing, sighing, rustling etc. in the concert hall)? You seem to be saying one at one time and the other at others.


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 1:07 pm 
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As to what Don-Alexei wrote on 4/6/12, I think I'm getting confused!

I have to agree with Stravinsky that "music is powerless to express anything." That is, I don't know that you can say that a piece of music is "about" an abstract idea, and still esteem at as "art." (Although the Romantic composers such as Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and others who wrote programmatic music -- in contrast with Beethoven, who wrote "absolute music") would probably disagree with this.

I think that Cage's 4'33 is what you make of it when you're actually experiencing it -- whether during the listening of the piece, you're experiencing the ambient noise in the concert hall, your own thoughts which are being engendered by the experience, or the relative "silence" of a relatively quiescent concert hall.

I think that sometimes, talking too much about what music "is," instead of just experiencing the performance at the level of immediate experience (rather than cogitative analysis) detracts from the fully aesthetic and artistic experience of music.

It sounds like this discussion is getting into the philosophical arena, doesn't it?


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:02 pm 
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...which was exactly the intention of the piece...!


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 9:08 am 
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George,

When you say " . . . which was exactly the intention of the piece . . .", are you talking about Cage's 4'33-- or are you referring to this thread, which is getting more interesting (and apparently more involved) as we go on?

BTW, could you tell me just what your avatar is a picture of? It looks intriguing, but I don't know what it is.

Thanks.


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 9:27 am 
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Don-Alexei wrote:
What exactly do you disagree with? I'm trying to explain why I think that saying a piece is "about" some totally abstract idea is not art.

I disagree with pretty much everything you stated in that quote. Almost every piece of art was about some kind of "totally abstract idea" in the first place. This idea or set of ideas is then further explained, modified, dismissed, etc. which can point us to the underlying intention of the artist. In the case of 4'33'' it is only one unmodified musical idea that is kept up throughout the whole piece, which is pretty much what pnoom criticized about it earlier in this thread.

Don-Alexei wrote:
And what exactly is the piece, according to you: nothing at all (what was written), or what you actually hear when it is "performed" (breathing, sighing, rustling etc. in the concert hall)? You seem to be saying one at one time and the other at others.

As with all western classical musical works that were originally written down in stave notation, the piece itself is just that: notes on a sheet of paper and an idea of sound behind it since that's all the actual artist (i.e. the composer) left us with. Any performance of the piece is already an interpretation of the original and maybe could even be looked at as an individual work of art by another artist (i.e. the performer). 4'33'' doesn't leave much room for interpretation by the performer. Maybe the audience could even be considered performers in any concert performance of the piece.

I'll also comment on some things you wrote in another post.

Don-Alexei wrote:
So it spawns a lot of talk about music, fine, but he could just have asked the questions you mentioned instead of "writing" a piece of music that somehow asks them for him.

He could have, but he was a composer, not a philosopher or author, and therefore the way he actually did it seems most fitting for him. Also those questions, thoughts, ideas or whatever you want to call it were of musical nature, so it seems plausible to publish them in musical form.

Don-Alexei wrote:
In a real piece of art you don't need language to pinpoint the meaning of a certain piece, and John Cage's 4'33 is worthless without it.

Any piece of a art can be conceived in a rather superficial manner without thinking about the meaning of the piece, the intentions of the artist, etc. If you are trying to explore those deeper meanings language can be a very helpful tool. And when you're saying that 4'33'' is worthless without language to explain it, then that is just your own personal and completely subjective opinion.

Don-Alexei wrote:
If indeed art has no objective definition, fine, then anything can be called art then anyone can do anything, lot's of people will talk and we'll all forget what it is was all about in the first place: watching or listening what somebody has created, and where anything we can ever say about it will always be inferior in nature to the work itself.

I never said that art has no objective definition, but maybe I misunderstand you. How exactly would you define art?

Anything anybody says about a work of art will always be somewhat inferior to the work itself, since it won't able to provide any kind of final word to the understanding of the piece. That doesn't mean that discussion about a work of art could not enhance our understanding and appreciation of the piece. And if you think that artists only create art so that other people can consume it and make random judgments concerning their liking or disliking of the piece, then I think that you're not doing justice to most artists.


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2012 3:06 pm 
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musicfunman wrote:
George,

When you say " . . . which was exactly the intention of the piece . . .", are you talking about Cage's 4'33-- or are you referring to this thread, which is getting more interesting (and apparently more involved) as we go on?
well, both, of course, but i was referring to the piece then... i think it was meant to break preconceptions of what a performance is, to try to get people to reconsider about what music is (and expand their definition), to get them to be more aware of their surroundings and themselves...
there are a million thoughts one can have about it... here's one, for instance: when we go to a "musical performance", we assume the role of a "listener", expecting to be entertained and to consume art, vulgar as that may sound... some people take that role too seriously, perhaps, and this abstractization and separation of clear-cut roles into performer/creator and listener/consumer is, in a way, limiting and dehumanizing...
so this piece may serve as a reminder of the people around you... you get a chance to listen to them, for a change... you may or may not treat their breathing, coughing, and chattering as music (though, knowing cage, he probably would)... it's a chance to become more aware of your non-human surroundings as well... in other words, yes, we could do those things any time we want, of course... but this period called "4'33'" implies a call for hightened awareness for everyone... (i.e. listen to your surroundings with the same concentration and awareness that you would give to a special performance of a "great" symphony or whatnot)
one could expound on it a million different other ways, as i've said... this is just one... (so, as you see, for me, it is closer to a performance art, which usually has a heavy philosophical/psychological/social aspect to it... and i think necessarily requires a particular intent from the performer, as well... it's not "just for kicks")

Quote:
BTW, could you tell me just what your avatar is a picture of? It looks intriguing, but I don't know what it is.
hehe... his name is "volchok" ("little wolf" in russian), and he is the protagonist of what is probably my favorite animation, called "tale of tales", by yuri norstein (which, by the way, also features some truly wonderful musical choices, particularly the Eb minor Prelude from the Well-Tempered Clavier). you can find it on youtube or other places online, if you're interested.

thank you for asking :biggrin:


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:55 pm 
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pauldrach wrote:
corrections wrote:
pauldrach wrote:
Thanks for your reply. I can understand anybody who has his doubts regarding the aesthetic quality of 4'33''. Yet there are certain underlying aspects to the piece that I like a lot: the idea of an audience closely listening complete silence, the question whether complete silence could or could not be considered music, the question whether complete silence even exists. I see it as a tribute to the beauty of silence and silence certainly can be one of the most beautiful things at times. The piece may be based on a single idea, that in itself probably is not that impressive an artistic achievement, but it nevertheless is an interesting artistic statement, and I personally like the idea behind it a lot.


I don't think the idea is for the audience to be listening to complete silence though (and if it was then the idea is dead on arrival because such is impossible around a large crowd). I think the idea is more the piece is always different because the noises around will be different. I don't think it is necessarily a tribute to silence (and if it was it would be ironically more effective as a recorded piece).


Depends on what you would accept under the moniker complete silence. In a concert setting complete silence will never be completely silent, just as it won't be, when you're listening to it at home on your stereo, and it won't even be completely silent if all sounds from the outside actually could be absorbed as your would then experience the sounds of your own body.


A tribute to silence would fix the level of silence indelibly. I think it more likely that Cage was more exploring chance music made not by the performer.


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:57 pm 
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pauldrach wrote:
Don-Alexei wrote:
Call me close-minded, but those bolded words are exactly why I consider the piece not to be a piece of art at all. It's only worth what it represents, what the idea behind it is, what it "says", indirectly, and not what it actually is (i.e nothing). So it spawns a lot of talk about music, fine, but he could just have asked the questions you mentioned instead of "writing" a piece of music that somehow asks them for him. In a real piece of art you don't need language to pinpoint the meaning of a certain piece, and John Cage's 4'33 is worthless without it. If indeed art has no objective definition, fine, then anything can be called art then anyone can do anything, lot's of people will talk and we'll all forget what it is was all about in the first place: watching or listening what somebody has created, and where anything we can ever say about it will always be inferior in nature to the work itself.

I strongly disagree. 4'33'' is about the actual sound of silence more than anything else. So in a way it is about nothing, but not in the sense of absence of any idea, emotion, even sound, but rather about the actual presence of nothing (nothing being one possible state of something). I don't know whether that makes sense, but I think it is possible to appreciate 4'33'' simply via listening to it.


But here is the deal. We don't disagree that silence has power. The issue I have is that silence derives its great power from its contrast with noise in other musical pieces. Without providing this context does it really do a good job of conveying the ideal you ascribe to it?


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 Post subject: Re: Discussion on John Cage's 4'33
PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 3:01 pm 
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pauldrach wrote:
Don-Alexei wrote:
What exactly do you disagree with? I'm trying to explain why I think that saying a piece is "about" some totally abstract idea is not art.

I disagree with pretty much everything you stated in that quote. Almost every piece of art was about some kind of "totally abstract idea" in the first place. This idea or set of ideas is then further explained, modified, dismissed, etc. which can point us to the underlying intention of the artist. In the case of 4'33'' it is only one unmodified musical idea that is kept up throughout the whole piece, which is pretty much what pnoom criticized about it earlier in this thread.

Don-Alexei wrote:
And what exactly is the piece, according to you: nothing at all (what was written), or what you actually hear when it is "performed" (breathing, sighing, rustling etc. in the concert hall)? You seem to be saying one at one time and the other at others.

As with all western classical musical works that were originally written down in stave notation, the piece itself is just that: notes on a sheet of paper and an idea of sound behind it since that's all the actual artist (i.e. the composer) left us with. Any performance of the piece is already an interpretation of the original and maybe could even be looked at as an individual work of art by another artist (i.e. the performer). 4'33'' doesn't leave much room for interpretation by the performer. Maybe the audience could even be considered performers in any concert performance of the piece.

I'll also comment on some things you wrote in another post.

Don-Alexei wrote:
So it spawns a lot of talk about music, fine, but he could just have asked the questions you mentioned instead of "writing" a piece of music that somehow asks them for him.

He could have, but he was a composer, not a philosopher or author, and therefore the way he actually did it seems most fitting for him. Also those questions, thoughts, ideas or whatever you want to call it were of musical nature, so it seems plausible to publish them in musical form.

Don-Alexei wrote:
In a real piece of art you don't need language to pinpoint the meaning of a certain piece, and John Cage's 4'33 is worthless without it.

Any piece of a art can be conceived in a rather superficial manner without thinking about the meaning of the piece, the intentions of the artist, etc. If you are trying to explore those deeper meanings language can be a very helpful tool. And when you're saying that 4'33'' is worthless without language to explain it, then that is just your own personal and completely subjective opinion.

Don-Alexei wrote:
If indeed art has no objective definition, fine, then anything can be called art then anyone can do anything, lot's of people will talk and we'll all forget what it is was all about in the first place: watching or listening what somebody has created, and where anything we can ever say about it will always be inferior in nature to the work itself.

I never said that art has no objective definition, but maybe I misunderstand you. How exactly would you define art?

Anything anybody says about a work of art will always be somewhat inferior to the work itself, since it won't able to provide any kind of final word to the understanding of the piece. That doesn't mean that discussion about a work of art could not enhance our understanding and appreciation of the piece. And if you think that artists only create art so that other people can consume it and make random judgments concerning their liking or disliking of the piece, then I think that you're not doing justice to most artists.


I'm interested in this last bit I bolded. What do you mean exactly? How does it follow that something said about a work of art will be inferior since it won't be able to provide final word. Does a piece provide final word?


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