John Cage 4′33″ Juggling

Last year we finally got around to doing a juggling version of John Cage’s 4′33″.  For those of you not familiar with the piece, it was written in 1952 by American Composer John Cage. Background on the piece here. It is part of ongoing series of pieces which interpret classical music, or indeed just music.

Some thoughts and questions: Does the skill of the performer affect its viewing? We sandwiched the piece between two pieces of skilful juggling. Would the piece be more/less interesting if it was performed by people whose juggling ability was unknown. Could i perform a skateboarding version? (i don’t skateboard). In this sense the piece is quite Warholian, in that it plays with notion of who is performing it. Most of the music versions i have seen have been performed by accomplished musicians.

Its performance in the context of a juggling performance raises for me some extra questions. I think Cage meant it as a celebration of the incidental, the beauty of the sounds that constantly surround us. So in the context of non juggling does this become more of a philosophical game, or are we dealing with the non-sound of juggling. What is the visual equivalent of silence, is it stillness? How much should one interpret. It makes me think of that Balanchine clip where he tells one of the Ballerinas not to interpret.

I do think Cage meant this as a joyous piece about the enjoyment of simple things, and it does frustrate me that it is read as a provocation, a lecture. The piece still gets strong reactions, suffice to see the You Tube comments. An annoyed French Juggler posted a clip of the wonderful Francis Brunn as an antidote to this piece.

I will leave it on lighter note:

Jean-Paul Sartre is sitting at a French cafe, revising his draft of Being and Nothingness. He says to the waitress, “I’d like a cup of coffee, please, with no cream.” The waitress replies, “I’m sorry, Monsieur, but we’re out of cream. How about with no milk?”

Tom Johnson three notes for three jugglers extracts:

Steve Reich Clapping music:

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