no wonder cage did 4’33’’

ujjwal kanishka utkarsh

12/3/20183 min read

no wonder cage did 4’33”



about a hundred musicians, one conductor, and compositions by some classics...

i have never understood how musicians do it. play to the tunes of others. of what kind of commitment that is needed by the percussionist to wait for their turn to bang the symbals. and wait they do. they sit, they text or whatever people do on their smartphones, take out the score of the next composition and wait they do. for the time to hammer the instrument that makes sound like a church bell. for the triangle, for the harp. all to create a beautiful ensemble of sounds, that sounds like music. music as we know it, the classics, that one has heard in one form or the other. in all it’s poise, in all it’s predictablity, of rhythm, of harmony. with it’s full effect and force.

standing there at the door of the hall, a hall which was just large enough to have the about hundred musicians (of course the viennese architecture with its really high ceilings and so on help), i was standing right next to the percussions, couldn’t help but think of that beautiful film in which we only see the drummer of the orchestra who is dozing off, looking into the camera, and so on, but continues playing (how do i not remember the name of the film). the conductor in all his glory of being the conductor, with his wand, was swaying away for the music. I guess considering the orchestra was mostly of very young people, also not taking himself too seriously, and being soft, friendly and funny, was still listening to the notes that he needed to.

isit the same thing, being in a film crew as in being in the orchestra? if so, then i kind of get it. but film shoots @re so shitty, so dirty, so ugly, whereas this right here was beauty, in all it’s conventional understanding beauty, thing that will emotionally move you, and take you to with its musical curve, where it’s going.

what was missed by most in the hall, also because they were part of it i guess, is the endings of each of the compositions. and the gaps in between the plays. most of the compositions designed in a way, that it ends with a high, for applause. i could hear the applause, almost as part of the composition. But they never happened. It was a rehearsal after all.and there were sounds of relief, sounds of people losing the poised positions, keeping their instruments down, putting on the new composition, but of course sound of the conductor telling them their next thing, correcting what needed to be, and so on. but that right then was what made it so real, so out of the musical bubble that was being created. no wonder cage thought of 4’33”.

i never knew harp was so beautiful. to see those things there, and imagining them being carried in, brought in, was all lost when it was being played in all it’s heavenliness (cliche yeah, but that’s how the idea of heaven is conditioned in, so well...)

it is all about the timing. which instruments get in at what point, and what loudness and so on. to some extent, i do understand what and why there’s so much tall about cage and the composition of 4’33”.

i wish the conductor spoke more english. he was quite fluent in it, but i think because most musicians were germans, german made more sense. maybe it was also nice to not know what he was saying. the musicians all had the music notes and so on, as the common language. at one point, half an hour two of them walked in with plastic bags and were unabashed (to my surprise) at arriving late. they had actually got stands for notes, for people who didn’t have it already. post that composition, many went and picked one up, getting access to the notes. even as the trumpet man was making marks of highs and lows on his. having stood there for about a couple of hours ‘observing’ (and with so many filmic ideas) stepping out, i could hear better. the sounds of the tram, of that roads, of the footsteps, and so on. no wonder cage did 4’33”.

thanks Emily (my former flatmate who is a cellist in the ensemble and told me about the rehearsal)

leaving with this image of cage’s composition of 4’33”.