Program on the occasion of fifteen
years of Magazin4
Curated by Wolfgang Fetz and Peter Lewis
In a series of written works and scores
Unrepeatable affects beyond the score and arbitrary endings
John Cage was a starting point,
looking at 4 minutes 33 seconds performance of 'silence',
from this point in time. The
piece had accrued a litany of interpretations,
and re-enactments as evidence
of the still vivid concerns of musicians and artists alike,
as universal concerns, in the
broadest sense. The remainders
of 4:33 themselves have been
carried over to become part of the detritus littering the
cultural landscape. We asked
could 4:33 be encountered in
a kind of free-fall that relieves
it of so much baggage? Could
it be performed, what the philosopher
Gilles Deleuze nominates, from
An effect is produced now without a cause.
Interruption becomes the subject itself,
when considered as a point of departure.
What if true beginnings are not at an actual beginning?
At any departure there is longing.
Here the distance from the work itself might come under a
certain scrutiny and be of use,
for younger artists not necessarily interested or acquainted
with John Cage. They might
be alerted to the importance of a work,
to which they possibly felt an affinity or little in common,
and were drawn to it at a risk to their practice to challenge
or test it. The play on expectation
of enjoyment and disappointment,
as the audience had first suffered at the hands of the composer,
became part of an artists'
project and brought up curatorial problems and solutions about
how to commission new work without letting go of a principle
in musical history, and of
locating audiences for diverse and difficult work through
new fields of practice and distribution,
appropriately aligning these to Cage.
The work and the structures became meshes of a dissemination
No concert hall, but a stage,
what kind of stage? Radio-
a radio broadcast - who would do it?
Would the city itself become the platform?
Would we bring in 'silent'
works through transmission from other places?
Yes, all these added together
to the unfolding of the project into a new realm of activity
that also discovered traces and memories of Cage's
as recorded technically, [with
or memorably, in the recall
of mind. Artists themselves
offered proposals. There were
risks in how the intended work and its actualisation would
match up, but we felt that
the failure of aspects within the project between intention
and outcome, and the process
itself, how it will have taken
shape, in retrospect might
be equally important in revealing more generally the gaps
in the institutional over-simplifications
dealt to the work of artists and musicians today.
This was the currency of the piece,
without any purist and puritanical reverence to be conferred
upon the work as 'homage'.
Cage's signature work was a
catalyst to listening, to materialise
silence out of 'inexistence'.
4:33 brought such tautologies
and contradictions also to bear on art's
lost high ground - questioning the limits of artistic practice
altogether. Level with the
world, as Cage may have intended,
art's use is terminable.
The work, coming out of informal
conversations as much as pedagogy,
was disinclined to support or re-assemble
an ideal of a Wagnerian Gesamkunstwerk,
and paralleled Cage's original
ideas: to break it up and start
anew, embrace antagonisms to
music and art's formal structures
and the nature of composition.
instruction given in Cage's
note on performing 4:33 stresses
the importance and difficulty of 'difference'
in any interpretation. The
motive to return again to the antagonism and incommunicability
now incubated in response or extension to the work's
scored intention might also expose a romantic desire to go
Upon such a premise artists agreed to participate to conceive
new works for the project from an inter-disciplinary
and conceptual understanding of avant-garde
music, acquainted with the
art and performance of Neo-Dada
and Fluxus, yet to think beyond
everything. All the experimental
work of that period still yielded a field of possibilities.
A stage could for instance be 'used'
in less utilitarian and more conceptual ways,
not solely in terms of historical 'stages'
but as something that could support and align the multiplicity
of temporalities insinuated in the project's
is produced physically yet out of the range of understanding,
at another place. Maybe there
are black holes of timelessness.
Space is silent. Who knows?
Unfounded by the simulacra of theatre,
the silence of the pianist now sits at the silent piano to
provides the 'vector'
for an imagined space and time in the far future,
[from his position in the concert
hall] for an unknown performer
in an unknown performance,
after the 'event'.
This could be taking place in a number of disconnected contexts,
in groupings of visual artists working in sound,
or of musicians, without sound,
or both by gesture alone and even by the absence of the artist
at her 'event';
redolent of silent, cancelled
gatherings. Silence is always
productive of ambivalence,
held at variance with, and
indeterminate of any set meaning or outcome.
As markers of a chance and a wager,
necessary courage in undertaking is connoted by the price
of keeping silent, of being
overwhelmed, like Orpheus,
by clamorous sound.
point between listening and seeing was to condition the collective
experience, immersed in the
excess of 'information'
of mass media, paradoxically
impoverished by over-capacity.
Silence is 'catalysed'
by the admittance of its exhaustion.
This was in fact the myth of origin of 4:33.
Cage visited an anechoic chamber,
a room, in which sound is reduced
to its minimum. It is where
he first heard in the absolute of exterior silence the deafening
sound of its interior: the
workings of his own body's
Silence is an affect realised precisely through its impossibility.
The important aspect has been to ask:
how can the regulation of sound be interrupted by the inverse
of its objective of mass-entertainment,
silence, without disappointment?
Cage insinuated such with the title,
which borrowed from the merchandising of music into saleable
chunks of time.
If you imagine how the 4:33
legacy has also, in time,
subtracted music further from music,
from MTV etcetera, then you
can see that the situation is one facet of the structure of
something always-already paused,
for example, in between conversation
and gesture, which articulates
meaning through its timbre.
Interruption is universal by signalling in-access,
and silence is nothing but always present as the discrete
exception to its own rule.
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