Lefteris explained 4’33” to me late one night while taking a break in the lab. I think it was one of those nights when lab members would work through the night, take a break downtown and then come back again and work till morning. Lately I find myself doing late night coding again and thinking of 4’33” mostly because of this:
In 1951, Cage visited the anechoic chamber at Harvard University. An anechoic chamber is a room designed in such a way that the walls, ceiling and floor absorb all sounds made in the room, rather than reflecting them as echoes. Such a chamber is also externally sound-proofed. Cage entered the chamber expecting to hear silence, but he wrote later, “I heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation.” Cage had gone to a place where he expected total silence, and yet heard sound. “Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music.” The realisation as he saw it of the impossibility of silence led to the composition of 4′33″.
So that’s the sound of silence I am listening to. Wow!