4’33”: Silence is Golden


Adrian Chen

THE BEAUTY OF SILENCE: Otamatone concertmaster conductor soloist Itzhak Perlman performs John Cage’s 4’33” in the Irvine City Classical & Modern Music Concert Hall.

Erin Tsai, Staff Writer

John Cage’s piece “4’33”” is my latest endeavor into experimental modern music. After doing extensive research, attending several live performances and watching many video performances, it turns out that sometimes, it’s the simplest pieces that are the most extraordinary, even on the least suspecting instruments.


This very unconventional composition is unlike anything I’ve ever heard beforeor rather, haven’t heard. There’s no doubt that this is the epitome of contemporary music in the present, sure to make waves in the community. It perfectly encapsulates the story of four minutes and 33 seconds. I have to congratulate Cage for composing such a complex yet universally understood piece.


Through my extensive research, I’ll make a bold statement right hereI’ve never seen a bad performance of 4’33”. One thing I particularly enjoyed about this piece is the audience participation, which makes each performance unique in its own right. I also really appreciate how accessible this piece is for performers, as it can be performed with any instrument with any number of people. Whether it’s performed by a soloist, heavy metal band or a full orchestra, the audience is sure to resonate with 4’33.”


I know I praised the performances I witnessed, but honestly, it’s all about the spirit of the performer, not the playing itself. Every time I hear 4’33,” it reminds me of deep-seated memories from my life, such as having a runny nose during a test or opening a bag of Lay’s Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle Flavored Potato ChipsTM in the middle of a crying scene in a movie theater. This piece is almost meditative at times, and although I’m not sure John Cage meant it to be, it’s been quite a pleasant surprise.

Personal taste

Honestly, I loved this piece. As a musician myself, I believe that this is a great starter piece for beginner musicians and non-musicians alike. It may be easy to learn, but it is difficult to master. And as an amateur Otamatone player, I was able to completely succeed at learning 4’33,” even performing it for a few friends of mine. In fact, the audience can make or break a performance of 4’33,” and that’s what I love about it. John Cage, you have my thanks for this piece.

Final rating

17 Otamatones out of 10 Otamatones.