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4’33” – A Christmas Number one?

October 17, 2010

If an internet campaign gets positively reported on by the likes of the Telegraph or the Guardian you know it’s gone mainstream. But does that mean that the campaign to make John Cage’s seminal work 4’33” this year’s UK Christmas number one will succeed?

I still find it incredible to believe that getting to the top chart position in time for Christmas is a race anyone can really be bothered to participate in. On the one hand I cant really see why anyone would really care. When it comes to Christmas I normally stick on our old Mariah Carey compilation and tune into the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve. But maybe that’s because I don’t watch X Factor. Maybe I’d be thinking differently if I did.

The campaign to get Cage’s composition to number one started with one key (and incredibly simple) motivating factor: stop the X Factor winner from getting there and lining Simon Cowell’s pocket. It worked. The Facebook page went around the social networking site like wildfire. We all smiled with smug self-satisfaction as we clicked on the Like button.

What a delicious thought it would if we could have 4’33” silence at Christmas. Cowell would still receive quite a lot of money no doubt, but he’d be shunted into second place. That might be quite a good Christmas present in itself.

But now the campaign seems to be taking hold, the wry smile I originally had on my face seems to have been replaced with a look of eager anticipation.

Casting John Cage’s Buddhism inspiration to one side and the stimulating take he had on ‘noise music’, there’s a chance for all of us if we set aside the time to ‘listen’ to a ‘recording’ of the work during the festive period.

Christmas is usually a hideous frenetic time. We all resist jumping on the bandwagon. Those of us who fail yearn for a quiet one. Those who get a quiet one usually bore the pants off everyone else saying how lovely it was. It’s a race towards the finish line. It’s far too expensive. And its usually over far too quickly.

A period of reflection – especially if you’re not an observer of the Christian festival – might be a rather nice thing. A sort of un-Christmas carol for non-believers. A chance to pause and reflect a quiet room to escape from all the noise, tinsel and rich food.

Far from being just a cynical post-modern anti-media machine stunt, 4’33” could be exactly what everyone needs this Christmas (assuming its not a counter PR campaign designed to boost sales for X Factor anyway).

Either way, there’s one crucial thing everyone needs to be reminded of. If we are going to put this track to number one we absolutely have to download it. John Cage’s estate derives revenue from ‘recordings’ as composer Mike Batt learnt to his cost in 2002. Theres no room (nor any point) in illegally downloading this one.

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2 Comments
  1. cyberguycalif permalink

    I don’t get it, I don’t get any part of it. It seemed senseless to me. I guess I am not a music lover on the scale of those that get what this was all about.

  2. It’s silence. A chance to hear the stuff which goes on all around us that we never hear going on around us because of everything we’re focussed on. I first learnt about it when i was at school. Found it deeply moving because it was so thought provoking. Not everyone will get. Most will dismiss it. Which is a shame.

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