This exercise asks us to create our own performance of John Cage’s piece which is essentially the absence of any intended sound for four minutes and thirty three seconds. I did this on my own at home, sitting in my study. Since it was around sunset, the predominant sound I heard was birds, and the occasional car going past. I was aware of sounds from downstairs in the kitchen where my husband was making dinner, and water trickling through the central heating system, as well as my own breathing and the chair I was sitting on creaking slightly.
This was a very calm and meditative few minutes in my day, but I find myself in no way able to call this music. My own personal definition as previously mentioned necessitates at least one of the building blocks – melody, rhythm, or harmony, and even the birds did not fulfil that criteria on this occasion. I can completely appreciate the value of silence (even prolonged silence) within a piece of music, but there is no musical context here at all. One philosopher has labelled the piece as ‘conceptual art’ which I think is a better description.