On 29 August 1952, a concert hall in Woodstock, New York, hosted the premiere of a new work by the 39-year-old composer John Cage. It was one that he had worked on for longer than any other of his compositions (nearly four years). Cage was already established as one of America’s most adventurous and original musical thinkers, but few, if any, in the original audience settling down for 4ʹ33ʺ could have anticipated what they were about to experience. At the beginning of the performance, the renowned pianist David Tudor walked on to the concert platform, sat at the piano and closed the keyboard lid. After 30 seconds (timed with a stopwatch), Tudor signalled the end of the first movement, during which he had played not a single note, by briefly lifting the lid. For the second movement, which lasted just short of two and a half minutes, Tudor remained motionless while the wind stirred the trees outside. The third and final movement, lasting one minute and forty seconds, and in which, as before, the pianist made no sound, completed the piece. Four minutes and thirty-three seconds: 4ʹ33ʺ.
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