That Obscure Disc of Desire

One thing I could sure use before finishing this book on 4’33” is an obscure recording on the Korm Plastics label called 45’18” (Forty-five Minutes, Eighteen Seconds). It’s a CD of nine versions of 4’33” by Thurston Moore, Keith Rowe, the Deep Listening Band, Voice Crack, and others. It doesn’t seem to be available anywhere at the moment. Is there someone out there who could dupe me a copy, with program info? I’d gladly pay a reasonable price for a CDR. (I mean, I am paying basically for silence, but it’s really important silence.)

One of the calmest afternoons I’ve had lately was spent doing a comparison of the various recordings of 4’33”


  1. says

    Not to be facetious, but how could there be more than one interpretation of 4’33” ?
    KG replies: I didn’t say there were different interpretations, but there are 26 recordings.

  2. says

    Hi Kyle,
    You hadn’t. I wasn’t clear … The different interpretations were referred to in the description at the “bentcrayon” link.
    KG replies: Ah. Well, stayed tuned, and I’ll find out if there are different interpretations. I gather they’re recorded in different spaces.

  3. says

    “but how could there be more than one interpretation of 4’33” ?”
    This question evidences a lack of knowledge or a mis-understanding of the Zen ideas which influenced Cage. Every moment in time and every point in space is unique, and 4’33” directs our attention to the particular time and space at which and in which the piece is performed. Consequently, no two recordings, even when performed by the same performer in the same place, would be the same, since they diect the listener to different moments.
    Instead, a Zen adept would wonder, as Cage once did, how it would be possible to compare one sound with another.

  4. says

    I have a Deep Listening Band CD with 2 versions of 4’33”. One is longer than the other — it seems they took interpretive liberties with the stopwatch markings — or else they just guessed on the timings. Does Cage’s score sanction that? I know some of his pieces asked for the use of stopwatches, which feels emblematic of the novelty of watch-time. Very much of-the-era, and curiously mechanistic. Relying on machines to attack subjectivity in music-making strikes me as an inheritance from Futurism.
    The 20th-century cult of the score was another attack on subjectivity in music-making. Cage & Toscanini: secret allies?
    KG replies: Yeah, and Frank Zappa’s recording is 6 minutes divided into five access bands. Strange. The 1961 score allows the possibility of altering the length of the piece, but you’re supposed to also alter the title to match the length. I don’t understand the timings. But one of the Deep Listening recordings also includes applause before and after, so that could account for some of it.

  5. Grandpa Scorpion says

    Did you read the blurb for the recording at bentcrayon? It seemed to imply performers were incorporating other elements that would fall outside the highly specific scope of the piece.

  6. says

    I have a feeling my comment was more curt than I’d meant it to be. I would like to get a bit of understanding here. Why am I wrong? What *is* so influential about different recordings of silence?

  7. says

    On Larry Solomon’s 4’33” site, I read there have been later comments by Cage that the piece could be of any length. (
    IMO a CD recording should always be on 3 tracks. For example 3 tracks of digital silence, perhaps with some snippets of music in between or something.
    KG replies: The 1961 score says that the piece can be any length, but implies that the title of the piece at any given performance should be its length. Then somewhere in an interview Cage says that no matter how long it is, it should always be called 4’33”. It’s all very confusing.

  8. says

    Interesting question in that last comment about the title versus the actual duration of the performance. All this reminds me of a silly college rock band I used to dig, named “A Halo Called Fred.” On their album “Necessity is the Motherfucker of Invention,” there’s a track titled thusly:

    15’00” (4’33” extended dance mix)

    One of the best things about that song is that, in something of a nod to Cage’s own style, the track lasts 15 minutes and 19 seconds. I’ve just found the album on iTunes, and the other best thing about the song is that iTunes has mistakenly written out the song title, so it says, “15 feet 00 inches (4 feet 33 inches extended dance mix).” HA!

  9. says

    Regarding your looking for recordings of 4’33″…
    Once when teaching an 8th grade general music class, I explained 4’33” and then turned on a tape recorder for the requisite amount of time. At first the kids sat looking around at each other, smiling, not knowing what to do. Then some of the brave ones [or more accurately the wise guys] started tapping their pens, and soon everyone was hooting or dropping books, etc.
    Upon playback of the tape, we were all surprised at the ebb and flow of the sounds, of the natural “rhythm” we created from just existing.
    The parallel was drawn to someone sitting in a concert hall during a performance of 4’33” hearing papers rustling, a car exhaust, birds, etc., all elements of the natural sound world happening independently of their being listened to. While we were somewhat purposefully making sounds, someone walking on the other side of the building, theoretically also listening to 4’33’, would have heard our sounds independent of its origin and included it in their experience, all part of what Cage intended to possibly hear and have happen in a given amount of time.
    KG replies: Very nice.

  10. Mattias says

    Oh goodness, I should have known this one was an obvious ringtone candidate, and that it must have already been done. I sure wish it were more people used it.