[Dixielandjazz] Pregnant pause

Nancy Giffin nancyink at ulink.net
Tue Dec 2 13:35:59 PST 2003

Paul Edgerton, who has been on vacation, and is rested and ready for an
argument, wrote regarding 4'33":
"... I would argue that this is not art in exactly the same way that a
sunset is not art..."

Well, Paul:

John Cage's 4'33": Art? Music? Or just plain semantics?

He used a so-called piece of music to redefine "silence" as simply the
absence of intended sounds, or the turning off of our awareness. He was
thrilled that the first performance included the sound of rustling leaves
(1st movement) and the pitter-patter of rain (second movement). To me, this
is like putting a giant blank canvas next to a window in order to draw
attention to the rest of the room and the world outside.

He gave silence a bad name, when in truth we can and do use silence or blank
space for contrast when creating music and art. Skillfully applied, it's a
tool for emphasizing and enhancing whatever surrounds it. The deliberate use
of  the "pregnant pause" in music or clever placement of "white space" in a
drawing creates drama and anticipation as we focus our attention on whatever
else is there -- before, after, around...

Cage is merely making an observation when he claims that silence is the
absence of "intended" sounds. What composer or musician hasn't masterfully
inserted a pregnant pause, only to have it filled by a cough, a drunken
howl, or crying baby...?

Nature abhors a vacuum.
So do I, but I can't afford a cleaning lady.

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