Thoughts on 4'33"

First: I was happy to hear the performance for the first time. It’s been a year of firsts. (I went to Mont St-Michel recently, too.) Second: I have loved Cage since I was in high school. Thanks to Mr. Brooks for the introduction to A Musical Circus. Changed my life. Or at least my approach to things.

Now to the heart of it: a lot of people were anticipating that the performers, holding their instruments and bringing out their scores, would do something. When slightly more than a dozen musicians take to the beautiful, vertical Calderwood Hall at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s stage, and stand, poised with their instruments, yet seemingly doing “nothing” …. There was tension. Anticipation. The weight of expectancy. An audible silence.

Bodies shifted in chairs. Bodies of the performers shifted from one standing foot to another.

And seemingly still nothing. The turning of a page of a score. Audience, still waiting.

The increasing mass of silence. A cough — finally, some noise.

The lesson was simple: everything is music.

I knew what to expect, yet I knew that every instance of the performance would be different. I was actually relieved that the guy on the second balcony opposite me coughed. I smiled when and beacuse did, knowing it was a contribution to the piece.

I knew it would make some people uncomfortable. I enjoyed that.

It was such a delight.