Que tanto es tantito? (How little is too little?)

“There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time. There is always something o see, something to hear. In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot” John Cage, Experimental Music 1958Image

Maverick Concert Hall in Woodstock is filled with people. The year is 1952. Pianist dressed to code: black frack and white bow tie is what David Tudor wears. The pentagram and metronome are ready. Expectation fills the air.  Concert begins.

Blank. First movement is complete. Blank. After two minutes and twenty-three seconds second Movement is complete. Blank. one minute and forty seconds go by. The piece is complete. Concert is finished and audience –left with blank, applaud.  There it was. John Cage 4´33”

Seriously? And we call this art? Absolutely empty, shallow, a farce. Totally mimicking. And the audience buying it completely? Not cool. For years it annoyed me to the top to think of Cage´s subversive attitude. What was challenging? And why? Criticizing and almost offending centuries of one of the richest artistic inheritance we have. For years I thought not only it was not funny, but I found the piece boring and absurd.

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It was not until I started questioning myself the ways in which art is made, it’s relationship with an audience, the role that our senses add up in to our cumulus of inputs to construct our understanding of reality, that I decided Mr. John Cage needed a second chance. What was he really up to? Why a person as smart, and recognize as him, would get away with a simple provocative commentary. It had to do with more.

Kyle Gann (scholar, critic and composer) writes about 4´33”: “It begged for a new approach to listening, perhaps even a new understanding of music itself, a blurring of the conventional boundaries between art and life.”

This was a pivotal piece in his carrier. With it, not only did he contributed to the history of Music with a fresh and edgy approach being it among the first compositions that addressed music more like an idea, a conceptual process, rather than an experience that is interpreted thru the senses.

4´33” requires a new set of definitions, codes and participation on 3 levels: by composer, by performer and by audience. Is an ever-changing piece, which demands from the audience participation. Every time that the piece is presented a whole set of sounds and noises are part of it: For in this new music nothing takes place but sounds: those that are notated and those that are not; which allow for 4´33” to be a transformative and evolving being.

It fascinates me the transparency with which it reflects the influence of Zen Buddhism and how it proves Cage´s statement regarding the lack of

To revisit Cages work changed my understanding of Art in general. His revolutionary ideas have touched me along the side with artists from all mediums and trajectories. In a way his work stands as evidence that mostly anything is possible, and serves as a motif for consideration. Is a call for awareness and new manners of operation in art making and perceiving.

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