John Cage, “The Greatest Troll in the History of Man”

More than six decades after its debut, John Cage’s 4’33” still has the power to polarize. To some (myself included), this is indicative of its greatness and resilience as a piece of music, philosophy, provocation, and conceptual art; to others, it’s a testament to the continued pretense and folly of “high art” and its adherents.

Regardless of the side to which you lean, , a piece by Québécois composer Charles Barabé, is worth a listen. Barabé has culled dozens of negative comments from a Youtube video of Cage’s most notorious piece, here leaving his computer to recite them over a building, ominous drone. The results are surprisingly spellbinding and thought-provoking, even as one cringes at some of the fiercer reactions from the peanut gallery.

Be warned: this is NSFW, and it also may warrant a “trigger warning” for more sensitive readers. Thanks to Paul Simpson at WCBN in Ann Arbor for bringing this to my attention!

…and just for kicks, here’s a televised performance of 4’33”  from the BBC.

Dustin Krcatovich is a cartoonist, writer, designer, founder of FM DUST, and a collector of certain curios and ephemera (with a focus on 20th century "junk culture"). His writing and illustration work appears frequently in The Quietus, Tiny Mix Tapes, and Esquire's Culture Blog. He is also a former editor and contributor to Secret Zen Garden,Saagara's illustrated mindfulness/wellness blog for young people. He currently resides in Portland, OR.

1 Comment


    10.12.14 at 6:44 pm


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