No Such Thing as Silence

No Such Thing as Silence : John Cage's 4'33"

4.11 (181 ratings by Goodreads)
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A vibrant portrait of the importance, influence, and impact of John Cage's iconic piece 4'33" by a leading modern music critic

First performed at the midpoint of the twentieth century, John Cage's 4'33", a composition conceived of without a single musical note,is among the most celebrated and ballyhooed cultural gestures in the history of modern music. A meditation on the act of listening and the nature of performance, Cage's controversial piece became the iconic statement of the meaning of silence in art and is a landmark work of American music.

In this book, Kyle Gann, one of the nation's leading music critics, explains 4'33" as a unique moment in American culture and musical composition. Finding resemblances and resonances of 4'33" in artworks as wide-ranging as the paintings of the Hudson River School and the music of John Lennon and Yoko Ono,he provides much-needed cultural context for this fundamentally challenging and often misunderstood piece. Gann also explores Cage's craft, describing in illuminating detail the musical, philosophical, and even environmental influences that informed this groundbreaking piece of music. Having performed 4'33" himself and as a composer in his own right, Gann offers the reader both an expert's analysis and a highly personal interpretation of Cage's most divisive work.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 140 x 210 x 17.78mm | 318g
  • United States
  • English
  • 14 b-w illus.
  • 0300171293
  • 9780300171297
  • 651,137

Review quote

"'Gann's book perfectly proves Cage's belief that putting a frame around silence can be as rewarding as music itself.' (Andrew Male, Mojo) '4'33", Gann argues, though often suspected of being merely a 'provocative stunt', is actually one of the best understood and most influential works of avant-garde music... In describing the piece's premieres and reception, Gann recaptures its 'Promethean' impact, which cost Cage some friends and prompted his mother to ask, "Don't you think that John has gone too far this time?'" (The New Yorker)"
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About Kyle Gann

Kyle Gann is Associate Professor of Music at Bard College, a composer, and former new-music critic for the Village Voice. He lives in Germantown, NY.
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Rating details

181 ratings
4.11 out of 5 stars
5 34% (61)
4 48% (87)
3 15% (28)
2 2% (3)
1 1% (2)
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