It began as a joke attacking Simon Cowell and the X Factor – which suggests that John’s piece 4′ 33″ was not really taken seriously – and it turned into a media-fueled crusade focused on novelty.
The whole thing seems to be an exploitation of Cage’s work rather than a manifestation of it. He didn’t care for recordings of his, or anybody else’s, music and as for voting, by whatever method …. he never did it.
This footage of the recording session shows performers bewildered and perplexed by the score. Many obviously hadn’t seen it prior to the session, had no idea what the piece involved and had given it no consideration whatsoever.
It would appear that Norman Lebrecht, writing here in the Daily Telegraph, hasn’t seen the score either:
“What happens in 4’33” is precisely nothing. At the world premiere in Woodstock, New York, in August 1952, David Tudor came onto the stage, shut the lid of the piano, sat at the closed keyboard for the required four minutes and thirty-three seconds, rose, bowed and left.”
According to the score, and well documented accounts of the first performance, this is not what happened.
Like Erik Satie and Anton Webern, composers he greatly admired, John was a master of the understatement and this campaign is a colossal overstatement rooted in triviality and banality. It draws attention to the X Factor and reinforces the notion, supported by frivolous media, that John was not a composer but some kind of conceptual prankster.
As Laura Kuhn, of the John Cage Trust, says …. be careful what you wish for.