Writing

John Cage’s Ode to Awkward Silence

‘I have nothing to say and I am saying it and that is poetry.’

John Cage’s 4’33, which consists in exactly four minutes and thirty-three seconds of deafening silence, was due to an unfortunate lapse of stress-induced amnesia. Paralyzed by the anxiety of facing yet another overly critical and ignorant audience, the Fluxus artist’s chakras recoiled into a tightly wound knot and immobilized him for the entire length of the piece. The first two minutes featured an enthusiastic first row member of the audience who happened to be noisily popping bubbles of a tropical-scented piece of gum. He was followed suit by an elderly gentleman in the standing section who proceeded to crack his knuckles in rhythm to his neighbor’s sullen sighs until an explosive sneeze from the third row gave the dramatic finale. Since then, 4’33 has attained world-wide recognition, and is claimed to be John Cage’s most famous and controversial work.