The BBC Symphony Orchestra Performs 4′33,″ the Controversial Composition by John Cage, Born 100 Years Ago Today

100 years ago today John Cage start­ed leav­ing his mark on our cul­tur­al land­scape. And, by the time he was all done, says The New York­er’s res­i­dent music crit­ic Alex Ross, “he may have sur­passed Stravin­sky as the most wide­ly cit­ed, the most famous and/or noto­ri­ous, of twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry com­posers,” with his influ­ence extend­ing “far out­side clas­si­cal music, into con­tem­po­rary art and pop cul­ture.”

We could­n’t let the cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tion of Cage’s birth pass by with­out revis­it­ing 4′33,″ his most famous and con­tro­ver­sial com­po­si­tion from 1952. Depend­ing on how you inter­pret it, the exper­i­men­tal com­po­si­tion offers a reflec­tion on the sound of silence, or per­haps the sounds you hear when the music goes silent and the atten­tion shifts to the audi­ence in the con­cert hall. This per­for­mance comes to us cour­tesy of the BBC Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra. And now we leave you with some bonus mate­r­i­al.

John Cage Per­forms Water Walk on “I’ve Got a Secret” (1960)

Cage’s Nor­ton Lec­tures Pre­sent­ed at Har­vard (1988–89)

John Cage Unbound: A New Dig­i­tal Archive Pre­sent­ed by The New York Pub­lic Library

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