[quoth] kim cascone: the aesthetics of failure

A few decades after the Futurists brought incidental noise to the foreground, John Cage would give permission to all composers to use any sound in composing music. At the 1952 debut of Cage's 4'33", David Tudor opened the piano keyboard lid and sat for the duration indicated in the title, implicitly inviting the audience to listen to background sounds, only closing and reopening the lid to demarcate three movements. The idea for 4'33" was outlined in a lecture given by Cage at Vassar College in 1948, entitled "A Composer's Confessions." The following year, Cage saw the white paintings of Robert Rauschenberg, and he saw in this an opportunity to keep pace with painting and push the stifled boundaries of modern music. Rauschenberg's white paintings combined chance, non-intention, and "minimalism" in one broad stroke, where the paintings revealed the "changing play of light and shadow and the presence of dust" (Kahn 1999).
Rauschenberg's white paintings were a powerful catalyst that helped inspire Cage to remove all constraints on what was considered music. Every environment could be experienced in a completely new way-as music.

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