The Late Movies: 9 Performances of John Cage's 4'33"

John Cage's musical composition 4'33" ("four, thirty-three") is considered among his best -- Cage himself thought it was his most important. The work contains three movements, all of which contain no musical sounds at all, although the piece is intended to be performed by trained musicians. There is some time between the movements, so that people may become settled again and prepare for the next movement. During the actual performance, musicians are instructed in the score (yes, there is a score) not to play any instrument, and there are very specific amounts of time in each movement of not-playing. The nature of the piece is that four minutes and thirty-three seconds (plus the time between movements) is a long time to be silent, so the audience naturally begins to respond and participate, particularly as the movements end. What happens is often amazing -- from "nothing" comes something. Each cough, whisper, or snippet of laughter is amplified. There is also an extraordinary shared experience to be had by listening to this piece with a group.

So tonight, sit back and enjoy these performance of 4'33". I promise, some stuff actually happens in these videos. It's just really subtle.

Full Orchestral Performance

From BBC Four, with an introduction from a real presenter. This is a full orchestra with a conductor, and an audience. Stick around and turn up the volume. At around 2:45 in this video, the first movement ends, then things really start to happen. Or not, depending on how you look at it.

Armin Fuchs - Piano

Fittingly, YouTube comments are disabled on this video. It has over 350,000 views.

David Tudor - Piano

"The material of music is sound and silence. Integrating these is composing. I have nothing to say, and I am saying it." -John Cage. Read more about Tudor's initial performance here.

YouTube Art - Sound Disabled

YouTube user AdamLore uploaded this video with an unauthorized music track, specifically so that a copyright claim would be made and ultimately the video's sound would be muted. The video includes this note on YouTube: "NOTICE: This video contains an audio track that has not been authorized by WMG. The audio has been disabled." A clever modern take on 4'33".

GVSU New Music Ensemble

With "guest violinist Todd Reynolds." I love that they tune first. Most of what you hear is electronic noise, from the (improperly set up) microphone.

Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre

Perhaps more active than what Cage envisioned, but the sock puppets certainly bring a lot of visual interest to the piece.

Andy Jones and Christopher McCastle

On guitar and drum.

Michael Munro - Piano

From the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia.

John Cage on Music, Sound, and Silence

"I love sounds just as there, and I have no need for them to be anything more than what they are."

Got a Favorite Performance of 4'33"?

Post it in the comments!

Your Library Has a Free Music Service That You Probably Didn't Know About

Did you know that you can download free music from your local library? Music that you can keep. That's right: not borrow, keep.

It's all possible thanks to a service called Freegal (a portmanteau of free and legal), which gives patrons of participating libraries access to 15 million songs from 40,000 labels, notably including the Sony Music Entertainment catalog. All you need is a library card.

Here's how it works: You can download a few songs a week, and, in many areas, enjoy several hours of streaming, too (the precise number of songs and hours of streaming varies by library). Once you download MP3 files, they're yours. You're free to put them on iTunes, your iPhone, your tablet, and more. You don't have to return them and they don't expire. The counter resets on Mondays at 12:01 a.m. Central Time, so if you hit your limit, you won't have long to wait before you get more downloads. And Freegal has some great stuff: A quick scan of the front page reveals music from Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Cardi B, Simon & Garfunkel, Childish Gambino, The Avett Brothers, Lykke Li, and Sara Bareilles.

Freegal has been around since 2010 and is offered at libraries worldwide. In the U.S., that includes the New York Public Library, Queens Library, Los Angeles Public Library, West Chicago Public Library, Houston Public Library, and more. In the past few years, libraries have debuted some other amazing free digital services, from classic films streaming on Kanopy to audiobooks and e-books available to borrow on SimplyE and OverDrive. But the thing that's so exciting about Freegal is that you can keep the MP3 files, unlike services that limit you to borrowing.

Freegal's site is easy to navigate: You can browse playlists and make your own, check out the most popular tunes, and save songs to your wishlist for when you get more credits. In the old days, music fans would check out CDs from the library and upload them onto their computers before returning them. But Freegal eliminates the need to go to your local branch, check out an album, and bring it back when you're done.

Freegal app

To find out if your local library has Freegal, go to and click login, then search for your area. It's important to note: Your library's contract might not have both streaming and downloading privileges. You can use Freegal on the web or as an app available on the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon. Of course, the service doesn't have everything. And sometimes, when it does have an artist, it will only have a few of their most popular albums. But if you frequently buy music on iTunes or elsewhere, checking Freegal first may save you a bit of money.

If you don't yet have a library card, Freegal is just one more reason why you should get one ASAP.

Rick Diamond, Getty Images
An Anthology Series Based on Dolly Parton's Songs Is Coming to Netflix
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Though she may be best known for her music career, Dolly Parton is a Hollywood powerhouse. In addition to starring in more than a few contemporary classics, from 9 to 5 to Steel Magnolias, she's also been partly responsible for some of your favorite TV series. As part owner of Sandollar Entertainment, a film and television production company, she's been a silent figure behind shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now, the queen of country music is preparing to return to the small screen once again—this time on Netflix.

The beloved singer is partnering with Warner Bros. Television to produce an anthology series for Netflix, Engadget reports. Set to debut in 2019, each of the eight episodes will have a theme based on a song by Parton, who will serve as executive producer and singer-songwriter in addition to appearing in the series.

"As a songwriter, I have always enjoyed telling stories through my music," Parton said in a statement. "I am thrilled to be bringing some of my favorite songs to life with Netflix. We hope our show will inspire and entertain families and folks of all generations, and I want to thank the good folks at Netflix and Warner Bros. TV for their incredible support."

The list of songs hasn’t yet been released, but I Will Always Love You, Jolene, and The Bargain Store are among Parton’s greatest hits.

Parton previously worked with Warner Bros. to produce the made-for-television movies Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors (2015) and Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love (2016). She has also nearly finished the music for the upcoming film Dumplin'—based on a novel by Julie Murphy and starring Jennifer Aniston—and the soundtrack will be released via Dolly Records and Sony Music Nashville, according to Parton’s website.

[h/t Engadget]


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