Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, February 7, 2003 11:49 pm

Composer or con artist?

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 11:49 pm

So-called composer John Cage — the late avant-garde guy who “composed” a musical work consisting entirely of 4 minutes and 55 seconds of silence, titled “4’55” ” — has a new work out that is being performed this week.

And next week.

And long after you’re dead.

It’s called “As Slow As Possible.” The performance began 17 months ago, although the only thing that has happened up to now is the inflation of the bellows on the organ on which it’s being performed; the first note wasn’t struck until noon Eastern time Wednesday. The work is still being performed as you read this, and it’s intended to go on for 639 years.

Yeah, you read that right.

On the one hand, I think it’s pretty stupid. But on the other hand, I know some people whose work transcends the normal time limits of human activity — foresters, wine makers, even some authors — and common to all of them is a profound optimism that someone will be around to enjoy the fruits, so to speak, of their work, even if they themselves are not. And maybe that’s what Cage’s legatees are going for here. If so, then I wish them well and I hope that the completion of the work in the year 2642 is greeted with thunderous applause from a grateful, peaceful, healthy audience.

That said, I feel obliged to point out that another composer recently was ordered to pay Cage’s estate a significant judgment for having plagiarized “4’55” ” (man, I hope I got all the quotation marks/apostrophes in the right place). Just thinking about that boggles the mind. How do you plagiarize … nothing?

UPDATE: It’s “4’33”,” of course, not “4’55”.” Stupid memory.

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