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Lisa Caywood
Chick in tech. Food enthusiast. Realistic idealist.
Chick in tech. Food enthusiast. Realistic idealist.

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The metaphysics of content marketing. ;-) on John Cage's 4'33" (1996)

> >> I believe there is at least one CD recording of 4’33”.

>>There are many performances around, the best being Boulez’. For alternative versions of the work, there is an unusually broad, contemplative and detailed 7’54” by Celibidache on some Italian bootleg, a brisk and fiery 4’06” by Toscanini (of doubtful attribution, unfortunately) and even an HIP performance of 4’32” by Gardiner, recorded in Cage’s own working room, together with an interview explaining how Cage’s watch was slightly inaccurate.

>ROFL! But you forgot the Furtwaengler one from 1944—strictly of curiosity value, since the tempi are mangled beyond recognition and one can hear the air-raid sirens in the background.

Actually, this is one of the best—and most authentic—performances around, as it perfectly addresses the philosophical point and musical programme of the work!
As far as picking a favorite performance, it would have to be the Christopher Hogwood performance on original instruments. (Attribution, Dammit)
An important aspect of period instrumentation for this piece is to use a mechanical stopwatch to time it, not a digital clock.
I’ve heard Bernstein’s is too fast, so that it’s actually 4’12”, Karajan is too intense, Maazel too boring, Marriner too lightweight, and Previn too soft.

Has anyone heard Norrington’s recording of authentic silence?

Do DDD recordings sound better than AAD?
Rachmaninoff’s Ampico piano role recordings really catch the essence of Cage’s most intense piano pieces. Nothing compares to this great London release. The company actually built a special piano to play the piano role to get the best realization of Rachmaninoff’s playing!
>>Gould recorded a very eccentric interpretation. It may not appeal to all tastes.

>Yes, but it’s probably the longest stretch of time in Gould’s life that he refrained from humming while seated at the piano.

No! No! You can’t apply standards appropriate to Bach to a piece of this age and genre. It’s true that he hums. It’s true that he continually ruined his Bach by humming along with it. But in 4’33”, the humming is the performance.
>Do DDD recordings sound better than AAD?
No I must disagree. AAD give a much clearer view of Cage’s vision than any digital recording could. It is most important to hear a LIVE recording of the work rather than a studio version. Also, that W. Carlos preson—so I’ve heard—once recorded the work on a synth (Moog I think). This is clearly unthinkable. Such a Bastardized version MUST be stricken from the music world forever! I have even heard that Cage began Cussing when he heard a boot-leg tape of W. C.’s performance and left the room humming a tone-row!
>>I’m afraid 4’33” sounds a lot better on LP than it does on CD!

>In fact the best recording is on an old 78 rpm, where it even fits on a single face (I forgot what’s on the other).

Although this was released on 78 it was originally recorded on tape. This was lucky because the original (live) take had a number of fluffs about 2/3 the way through, and being on tape they were able to splice in a cleaned-up version. The second side is blank. Most disappointing.
>>>>>Bah! You haven’t heard this piece truly performed until you have heard UTGE laboratories’s reissue of Sviatoslav Richter’s towering account of the piece, done when he was just 16 years old, in Baroque period tuning and tempo (thus taking about 52 seconds to perform). You’ll never hear this piece the same way again…

>>>>Hrmph! The best recording of it was Stokowski’s orchestration of it he performed with the Symphony on the Air!

>>>Oh, Well! Fine if you want to talk about transcriptions. But ANY orchestration of this work totally misses the subtlely of the piano version!

>>Humbug! Richter’s interpretation is rushed and superficial at the best of times. Where is the depth of emotion? Where is the soul? Frivolous, I say!

>Schanbel’s recording is such a pity. He just drops too many notes! Totally destroys the effect. <sigh></sigh>

I’ll bet you’ve been listening to the denatured EMI pressing. You have to go to the Pearl restoration, which, albeit significantly more expensive, miraculously reinstates the original sonic ambience which is so vital to an appreciation of Schnabel’s extraordinary tonal palette!
Well, I’ve take some recommendations from r.m.c. folks and have learned a lot. The best 4’33” I’ve heard so far is by Julian Webber, in a transcription. Hogwood’s silence is more authentic than Norrington’s, I think. The Kronos Quartet does an interesting transcription of the piece, called 17.32.
Stephen Sondheim is working on a stage biography of the composer, called SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH CAGE.

Some record company (London/Decca, I think) is putting out a double CD set of all the known orchestrations of the piece, much like has been done with Mussorgsky’s Pictures.

….Does anyone have any info about the 4’33” that was recorded in the back seat of a Lexus?
My favourite version is Marc-Andre Hamelin’s unbelievable live recording of Alkan’s arrangement for left hand alone – in the cadenza Alkan combines the main theme of 4’33” contrapuntally with the triumphant final bars of rest from Music of Changes and the silence between the 4th sonata and 2nd interlude from the Sonatas and Interludes: I can’t believe nobody thought of doing this before. Hamelin’s virtuosity simply silences criticism, there is not a dry eye in the house at the end of the performance.
Of course there is Felix Weingartner’s orchestration, recorded in 1929, although some people find this rather overblown, and I think Bernstein did a version with the massed pianos of the VPO – following the example of Mitropoulos.

Few people realize that Cage himself produced several revisions, including versions for prepared piano and toy piano, plus a ‘contrapuntal’ version for two pianos with optional third piano. I have heard rumors of a forthcoming recording of this by Rzewski and Hamelin (with either Oppens or Drury playing the third piano).

I’m not even going to mention the abysmal electric version that Emerson Lake and Palmer did in the 70s, or the Yanni/John Tesh collaboration which occupies the second half of the “Live at the Red Rock Acropolis/Dead from the Neck Up” concert so beloved of PBS….
Has anyone thought about completions of Cage’s unfinished score, though? Such as the various efforts of Eybler, Suessmayr and Robert Levin?
Actually, 4’33” is actually not by Cage at all. It is all that remains of the Sibelius’ 8th symphony. No wonder that Sibelius would get “very agitated” when asked about this piece.
Kudos to Cage for bringing this score to light, and for renaming the work so as to not embarrass Mr. Sibelius.
Actually a more interesting question would be about “higher criticism”: what are the alternative treatments of 4’33”? Is the first, uncut version (4’55”) superior to the later, more concise version we have today? Did Cage make critical changes in the phrasing and balance of certain passages? Is it true that 4’33” is actually the Minute Waltz played inverse retrograde?

Did Cage destroy early versions of this masterpiece? If so, how would we know? Metaphysically, how could one destroy such a score?
(Why would we care…..?)
>I liked the arrangement of snippets from 4’33” used by Carl Stallings in several Road Runner cartoon soundtracks.

Or Deryck Cooke’s “performing edition”? Let’s face it, Cage left the work thoroughly sketched out, with only instrumentation left to be completed. Cooke, taking his lead from the examples of “Variations IV”, “Atlas Eclipticalis”, “Roaratorio”, the Richard Wilhelm translation of the I Ching and “The Field Guide to North American Mushrooms” has fleshed out the work and given us a living, breathing whole of which Cage himself would surely have remarked “I have nothing to say and I am saying it”.

There can be no more excuse for playing Cage’s incomplete score, than for playing only the first two movements of Schubert’s 8th symphony, or truncating the final fugue of Bach’s Art of Fugue.
I wonder if anyone could comment about the Bernstein performances. I am trying to choose between the Sony Royal Edition and the later DG disc. The first performance (Sony) has been criticized as “self-indulgent” and “over the top,” but I have been blown away by other Bernstein performances that have received the same criticism. The DG version with the VPO will have better sound, but I am skeptical about the boy assigned the soprano role. DELOS has announce a new version with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony that was recorded in Dolby Surround Sound. I would be interested in anyone’s thoughts who has heard this.

By the way, there is a fascinating reconstruction of a performance by the composter originally recorded on piano scrolls. A professor at Cornell carefully re-recorded a piano version for RCA Victor. It is a remarkable work of scholarship. I understand that just recovering the proper tempos took two years to complete.
>>Don’t buy any, perform it yourself. Most of us have their own private performance each morning. Be creative!

>You must be assuming that each and every one of us can keep silent for 4’33”, aren’t you?

Actually, I made my own recording of 4’33” for a friend as a gift. I taped the sounds of walking out on a stage and sitting down, and some stopwatch noises. Following the directions for the duration of the score, I simply included three recordings from three places I’d “performed” the piece before (I don’t remember the order of the sections or the durations just at the moment) by including the ambient noise from all three locations:

In front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.
By the carp pond at the Meiji Gardens in Tokyo.
A highway overpass somewhere west of Wendover, Utah.

It’s still my favorite recording. When I’ve got the time, I plan to replace the highway section with a recording from a windmill farm in the north of the Netherlands (once I can get a good recording).
All I can say has been said before, more eloquently:

As H. Ross Perot (not Frank Zappa, not Laurie Anderson, not Michael Torke) said to William S. Burroughs:
Talking about architectural dance is like asking your crazy aunt in the attic to perform 4’33” with a watch that runs slow, assuming that the umbrellas have been stuck in the piano wrapped with aluminum foil in the desert. My daughter knew what music was, before the CIA disrupted her wedding party. But if it’s atonal, throw the baby out with the bathwater or else it won’t stare at the pattern long enough.
All this talk about the best performances of John Cage’s 4’33” is leading nowhere. What I would like to know is this: whenever 4’33” of silence occurs in a concert hall (for example, during intermission), does ASCAP bill the hall for a performance fee and send it on to Cage’s estate? If a contemporary composer includes in a new work a “grande pausa” with fermata marked “lunga”, can he/she be sued by John Cage’s estate for plagiarism. Moreover, on one of my stereo test CD’s, there is a blank band of roughly 4-1/2 minutes (obviously, the engineer took the optional “ritardando” at the end). However ,the label on this CD fails to mention the work’s title and give no credit to John Cage. Can this CD label be sued? And finally, one of the Beatles’ recordings lasts exactly 4’33”. Isn’t it possible that this cut is actually a recording of Cage’s 4’33” with the sounds of a Beatles’ tune in the background? Once Pandora’s box has been opening, the possibilities are endless.

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Not just Nadeau, of course, though he seems to be everywhere, but so are several other key members of the Brocade team!

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Tom Nadeau and I rap with the Packet Pushers about the Brocade Vyatta Controller for Open SDN.

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Casual networking panel at #VMunderground 2014. Great SDN use case for SMBs from +Tom Hollingsworth at 29:58. #vmworld2014  

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This was fun to record! Themes around finding yourself at a project or career crossroads and deciding where you want to go next.
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