BRIEFLY: Cage Match

20 December, 2012 at 3:42 pm (music)

Two years ago there was the surreal and wonderful attempt to make John Cage’s nigh-silent classic “4’33″” the chart-topping, most-played song on the radio of Christmas 2010. This did not come about, unfortunately. Despite this sad event, I shan’t ask for a moment of silence. Instead, here’s a quick collection of John Cage moments in popular culture:

iTunes: Discovery Download: John Cage
“4’33″” was released as weekly free download on iTunes… except it wasn’t. The piece has sections, and only the first movement, “Tacet” was available. So I have only one minute, forty-six seconds of “4’33″” on my computer. Amusingly enough, Stephen Fry has more. He once posted on Twitter that iTunes runtime on the “4’33″” was four minutes and forty-five seconds: “12 extra unauthorized seconds of silence.” One can only hope that iTunes doesn’t get in any legal trouble for this, having substantially changed the nature of the copyrighted work.

Twitter: Stephen Fry: 14 July 2011
And we know it’s copyrighted. Not only was the iTunes track downloaded with full DRM attached, in 2002 a composer cheekily credited Cage as a co-author of a track that was a minute of silence, and was sued by Cage’s estate for his homage.

YouTube: John Cage's 4m33s: Uploaded by AdamLore

Not only that, but YouTube video of the performance was challenged by the Warner Media Group (WMG), and therefore had it’s audio track disabled by Google. Which meant that when you watched the video, you heard four minutes and thirty-three seconds of a completely different silence than the one originally intended. Shocking. Or, as Fry put it in his tweet: “Scandal.”

Related Links:
     EDIT: Twitter: Matt Fraction and Dara O’Briain come up with the same punchline
     The Vulture: A lovely profile of and context for Cage on his 100th birthday
     GoComics: Frazz by Jef Mallett, 31 March 2004
     Comics Grand Database: “Indeterminacy” by R.Sikoryak
     The Millions: John Cage, Silence
     The Guardian: John Cage Christmas Single campaign
     Cage Against The Machine: Official website

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