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16 December 2015

4'33" Lives On!

©Lisa Macbride (2015)

The web can be a lonely place for content providers. Mostly you spend way too much time on whatever you'd like to share, then carefully upload it and send it out into the world. Silence. Without fanfare or further ado, you're on to the next task.

Not so with our 4'33"App, which garners a lot of feedback. This comes mostly in the form of audio uploads to its global map, but also in occasional communications. For example, we recently received a beautiful email from a Cage enthusiast in Germany, one Dr. Peter Hallberg, a retired painter, philosopher, and teacher. For Dr. Hallberg, the 4'33" App provides not only music but a means of rapid transport to other times and places:

When I hear for example "Davis Summer Morning July 7, 2013"


or "Davis Thunderstorm Sept. 2, 2013,"


I can also hear the atmosphere of a special moment, in a special place at a special time in the past, now timeless, of a real person living far away from me in America. Later I add other thunderstorms, one at my home, near Kassel, and another at the seaside of Rügen.*

*Dr. Hallberg's uploads to the 4'33" App, captured to date throughout Germany as well as in Sicily and Cuba, may be found under his pseudonym, PiTTo.

The 4'33" App gives me a chance to travel -- without moving, without wasting time, no change of places, traveling by mind, leaving the body behind, concentrated on my hearing sense, not being distracted by the power of pictures, by night or by day.

There are some Russian students on their way by train between Saint Petersburg and Moscow. I am with them.


 An old English Professor of History, Sir John Huxtable Elliott, lets me share moments of his private life in Spain and North Africa. I follow the Austrian composer Karlheinz Essel to Salzburg and Madeira, and, surprisingly, some days later, I meet him on the Isle of Rügen, where I physically was just days before.

I  join a young woman in her home in the middle of Russia (Tomsk), and then follow Charles Amirkhanian to San Francisco, where I've been twice, meeting him a moment later in Costa Rica, then at his stopover in Germany (Nürnberg), and finally in Sicily, where I later traveled and added recordings of my own. 

Now back home again in the middle of Deutschland, this App allows me to travel back again and again. And at the same time, I always know that other people can live together with me in every 4'33" recording, wherever I am or will be.

This year I visited a small, fantastic Island, belonging to Cuba, called Cayo Coco. 

With the 4'33" App I am able to return there, whenever I want. When I will have left this globe, my friends, family, and others will be able to relive some special moments with me.

Isn't it phantastic?

Phil Stone, with Larry Larson one of two developers of the 4'33" App, was touched:

It is very gratifying to read of Dr. Hallberg's enjoyment of the 4'33" App. I didn't anticipate the "aural travelogue" aspect when we first came up with the "World of 4'33"" idea, but it has become one of my favorite things. People have been taking photos of special places they visit since the camera was invented, but I think it is a relatively new idea to capture a sonic "portrait." The simple power of Cage's piece is that it calms the mind and focuses it on the sonic environment, putting a three-movement frame around the sound of a given time and place. Our 4'33" App has taken the "place" part of that equation and mapped it onto a browsable world, allowing "traveling by mind," as Dr. Hallberg so eloquently puts it, in a way that seems much more powerful than merely viewing pictures of some faraway land.

And Gene Caprioglio, Head of Rights and Licensing at C.F. Peters (as well as guitarist with the New York dance band Mixed Meta5), was also moved to respond:

I always thought of the 4'33" App as a sonic travelogue or sonic snapshot. Dr. Hallberg gets that completely. I was recently re-reading David Byrne's fantastic book, How Music Works (McSweeney's, 2012), and came upon the section where he discusses the struggle between ears and eyes for human perceptual dominance. He thinks the eyes have won. Dr. Hallberg's reference to "not being distracted by the power of pictures" brought that to mind. We have lost a lot by our dependence on the visual at the expense of the aural. I think Cage knew it back in 1952.

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In celebration of the holidays this year, our gift to you is a weekly tweet of our favorite uploads to the 4'33" App.  Follow us on Twitter: @johncagetrust

Laura Kuhn