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No such thing as silence: John Cage's 4'33"

No such thing as silence: John Cage's 4'33"

Gann, Kyle

First performed at the midpoint of the 20th century, John Cage's '4'33"', a composition conceived of without a single note, is among the most celebrated and ballyhooed cultural gestures in the history of modern music. This book explains '4'33"' as a unique moment in American culture and musical composition

Hardback, Book. English.
Published New Haven, [Conn.; London: Yale University Press, c2010
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Available: Newton Park

  • Newton Park – One available in Main Collection 780.92 CAG/G

    Barcode Shelfmark Loan type Status
    00294934 Main Collection 780.92 CAG/G Standard Available


Statement of responsibility: Kyle Gann
ISBN: 0300136994, 9780300136999
Intended audience: Specialized.
Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Physical Description: xiii, 255 p. : ill., ports. ; 22 cm.
Series: Icons of America
Subject: Cage, John. 4'33".; Experimental music; Cage, John; Music.
Series Title: Icons of America.

Author note

Kyle Gann is Associate Professor of Music at Bard College, a composer, and former new-music critic for the Village Voice. He lives in Germantown, NY.


“John Cage opened our ears to the whole world as music. In this engaging book, Kyle Gann opens our minds to the deep reverberations of Cage’s most radical, misunderstood and influential work.”—John Luther Adams, author of The Place Where You Go to Listen

||“With composerly imagination and scholarly intelligence, Kyle Gann proves that 4'33" was not an offhand provocation, but John Cage's most important piece and the key that unlocks the composer's entire output.”—Robert Carl, author of Terry Riley’s In C

||“Music is sound without meaning and Cage's 4'33" is no sound without meaning. Gann's imaginative and thorough scholarship offers us insightful ways to understand Cage's magnificent meaninglessness."—Larry Polansky, Dartmouth University and Frog Peak Music

||"An outstanding book. Gann not only makes 4'33" come alive, but also makes the writing of it feel important and artistically necessary. All in all, a big achievement"—William Duckworth, Bucknell University

||“Deftly profiling Cage and his influences in the process, Gann entrancingly communicates his love and fascination with Cage’s musical milestone in a spellbinding chapter of high-cultural history.”--Booklist, starred review

Booklist||“Though Gann clearly respects Cage and 4'33", he doesn’t worship either blindly, and that critical appreciation makes his argument that this is a radical ‘act of listening,’ not a provocative stunt, all the more compelling.”--Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly|| “The former Village Voice new-music critic examines the ways in which Cage's piece was and is boosted and derided, and the result is an easily digestible yet illuminating volume.”—J. Gabriel Boylan, Bookforum


Bookforum|| “4'33", Gann argues, though often suspected of being merely a ‘provocative stunt,’ is actually one of the best understood and most influential works of avant-garde music. . . . In describing the piece’s premières and reception, Gann recaptures its ‘Promethean’ impact, which cost Cage some friends and prompted his mother to ask, ‘Don’t you think that John has gone too far this time?’ ”--The New Yorker

The New Yorker||"Gann's book amply demonstrates [that] Cage's so-called silent piece is as resonant with philosophical, historical, and acoustical complexities as many a noisier composition. . . . Gann's account so perceptively synthesizes the irreducible disparity about the origin of Cage's seemingly simple gesture that it will doubtlessly become the (unstable) foundation for many future interpretive engagements with the piece. . . . It is the great merit of Gann's book to have revealed just how multidimensional even Cage's most seemingly unidimensional gesture can be."—Brandon Joseph, American Music
American Music