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Music and Art As Tools to Understand Our World Essay

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Updated: Jan 5th, 2022

It is often pointed out that life can not be full without art and music. They have become an integral part of a complete human being. Needless to say that art and music are activities that have been influencing people’s minds and hearts to a great extent at all times. In their powers is to bring out a softer, mature, and complete person. Without music, life tends to become boring and monotonous. Music can encourage us to improve our knowledge and broaden our views. It can be both lights allowing us to relax our body and entertain the soul and philosophic which main aim is to enrich our lives and expand our horizon. It is very important to learn to appreciate art and music as they prepare us for life in a big and unpredictable world.

Music is an important cultural heritage of human beings and it remains an integral part of our present. Moreover, it has always been accompanied by the progress of science and knowledge. In the twentieth century, everything seems to change in split seconds, people have invented a lot of things and devices to ease their lives. The evolution affected different spheres of life and musical was one of them. All traditional forms are broken and the line between musical styles is fast becoming a blurred one. Technology becomes a very influential factor in the music-making process during this period. Composers of the time can be called pioneers of music-making. What is “normal” nowadays was formerly very progressive. The first reason for it lies in the rapid succession of impressions and ideas that people have. For instance, Jazz is very popular and highly valued now, but when it first emerged it was quite disputable. Some people supported it and called it the biggest breakthrough as it influenced composers from all over the world, others were strongly against it. Many contemporary works of art are new or not clear to people this results in the fact that they can be called conceptual art, however, I believe that conceptual art can become a classic one some years later as we have witnessed it earlier in human history.

To my mind, the main aim of conceptual art is to broaden people’s view of the world and to gain a new kind of experience. However strange or incomprehensible it may seem, all you need is to open your mind to see the deepest idea of the author, the important message that he wants to convey by his work. That is the foremost reason why I consider John Cage a conceptual artist.

John Milton Cage Jr. is an American experimental music composer, philosopher, and artist. He is often called one of the most influential and leading figures of the twentieth century. The use of new technology has affected his works greatly but he was not an idealist merely responding to new music-media technologies because to understand his creative power you need to have a rich historical, cultural and philosophic background. His originality and individual methods and forms of music never let his ideas lie on the surface. Cage’s creative work is many-sided and it puts a lot of philosophic questions that are still under discussion. He has altered the very face of music by his extremely unique career in music.

John Cage was not thinking of composition at first. He had various talents and could choose almost any career he wanted. He was interested in painting, poetry, mycology, and mushroom collecting. Soon he decides to devote his life to music, though continues to develop his other passions. Cage’s creative life can not be described as an easy one. He experienced periods of prosperity and decay, but he remained true to himself and never followed the fashion. He believed that music is everything around us, everything we do or think, therefore any idea even our most brave one can be considered art. Sound can occur at any time, and in any place. Cage himself described music as “Not an attempt to understand something that is being said, for, if something were being said, the sound would be given the shapes of words. [It is] just an attention to the activity of sounds” (Cage 10).

After the visit to the anechoic chamber in Harvard University where he expected to hear silence Cage wrote “Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music” (Cage 8). This impression of the impossibility of silence led to the composition of 4′33″. It is still greatly argued about and it has both admires who believe that it is a fundamental piece and opponents who do not consider it art.

John Cage had already become well known as a musical innovator when he originally recorded four minutes and thirty-three seconds in 1952. It is one of the most extraordinary ‘performances’ people have ever witnessed at that time. Though it was not received well it influenced society to a great extend. John Cage ‘composed’ a piece that allows us and our surroundings to become the composers ourselves. If I sniff or move, I shall become a part of this musical composition history. This masterpiece is vivid proof that music can not be free from social relations or human action as people communicate during this short time in their way.

‘Four minutes and thirty tree seconds’ but can be played on any musical instrument or even without it. Even though the piece seems to be ‘completely’ silent the audience might hear a wide variety of sounds. John Cage’s listener is the one who has just learned to hear. And by the word “hear” I mean not only his physical ability to perceive sounds but the ability to absorb sounds around us and inside us. What you hear when you listen to four minutes and thirty-three seconds is what you want to hear. “The essential meaning of silence is the giving up of intention,” Cage said (Kostelanetz 189). This idea is the reflection of his compositional philosophy.

Several recordings of ‘four minutes and thirty tree seconds’ now exist. Some people can call them the same as they are all silent, others prefer to listen to a particular ‘reading’ of this work. I have listened to ‘four minutes and thirty tree seconds’ for the first time when it was performed by an orchestra and it greatly influenced my world. I must admit that it is one of the most extraordinary performances I have ever experienced. Four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. What is the most remarkable, to my mind, is how much tension it produces. Nobody told me what to do or to think during the listening but I was afraid even to move to not frighten away the music. There were pauses during the performance when musicians turned over pages or when the conductor wiped his forehead. This enhanced my perception of the piece. I can not stop wondering why four minutes and thirty-three seconds? Is it the necessary time to hear your thoughts? It is well known that all of us hear things differently a different times. Every next listening to ‘four minutes and thirty tree seconds’ will never be the same. Maybe it is the great secret of this piece? The next time you are alone and everything around you may be silent you will hear the music of the world, whatever definition you put in this notion.

Summarizing the said above I would like to say that music is a continuous process to improve our understanding of life. Trying to analyze ‘four minutes and thirty-three seconds’ without feeling it deeply and living its sometimes long and sometimes short four minutes and thirty-three seconds seems to be an insuperable task. ‘Four minutes and thirty tree seconds’ continues to baffle and confound people today and the impact that it has on our lives can never be over-emphasized. John Cage indeed has the power to refresh our minds and touch our souls with various forms what we need is to be able to open our hearts. The performance of 4’33” should bring peace and balance in the world and people’s souls and change the understanding of music.

Works cited

Cage, John. Silence; Lectures and Writings by John Cage. Middletown: Wesleyan university press, 1961.

Kostelanetz, Richard. Conversing with Cage. New York: Limelight, 1988.

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