Classic Chords #4 – The Caged Chord

Composer John Cage (1912-1992) is perhaps most famous not for the music he wrote but the silence. In the piece known as “Four minutes, thirty-three seconds”, 4’33”, which is ostensibly in three movements Cage instructed musicians, with any instrument or any combination of instruments and presumably voice to not play their instrument(s) for the during of the piece.

When it was first performed in 1952 and ever since, the audience gets nothing but the ambient sounds of the environment in which they and the performers exist for those four minutes and thirty three seconds.


Needless to say, there has been a lot of discussion of the metaphysics of what it means to write a piece of music that is entirely silence. I was thinking of forming a death metal band and calling them Homeopathetik. They would have only 4’33” in their repertoire and would never play live. This is their chord. In fact, I recorded a demo of the song years ago…stick your fingers in your ears and have a listen. One wag has already suggested I do a 12″ remix at 9’06”.

Apparently, in 2016, a band did a cover of my arrangement of this piece. I was also hoping to somehow get Napalm Death to reform so that could do a version that lasted 4.33 nanoseconds.

I thought I’d lost my death metal demo of 4’33” but I found the file, here’s a 1’09” sample from my archives, best listened to on headphones, but don’t turn it up too loud…

More Classic Chords here.