4’33” (In Proportional Notation) is the earliest surviving score for Cage’s “silent piece,” first performed by the pianist David Tudor in Woodstock, New York, on August 29, 1952. Whereas the lost original score used conventional musical notation to signify three periods of silence, this score is composed of a series of vertical lines. The duration of the three movements corresponds to the distance between the lines, equating spatial and temporal measurements.
During the premiere, Tudor sat quietly at his piano, opening and closing the keyboard lid to mark the progression of the three movements. The audience waited in anticipation of the performance: their expectations of a conventional concert were shattered, but music was made. Cage recounted, “You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.” Cage saw silence as a way to plug the audience into the sound track of everyday life, to open them up to the infinite possibilities of ambient sound.
Cage dedicated 4’33” (In Proportional Notation), the second iteration of his “silent” piece, to his friend Irwin Kremen and gave it to him on his twenty–eighth birthday, in 1953.
Gallery label from There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33”, October 12, 2013–June 22, 2014.