Cage Against the Machine
It’s a Brit thing: every Christmas there is a race to see which group will have the top single of the Yuletide season. In past years, SImon Cowell has pushed his X-Factor winner to the top. Last year musicians got fed up with the commercialization of it all and issued a rival song which won.
This year another group, called Cage Against the Machine, is trying again to counter-act the commercialization of Christmas with a silent grassroots alternative. Imagine 4 minutes of silence on the radio as the top single is played!
Calling themselves Cage Against the Machine, they will be performing a rendition of John Cage’s famous silent song: 4’33”. Musicians such as Pete Doherty, the Kooks, Billy Bragg, Imogen Heap, Orbital and many more have come together for the “recording.”
They reckon that a bit of silence, as an alternative to the usual Muzak and commercial pop music, might be a serene and enjoyable thing.
Created in 1952, it is not actually 4 minutes and 33 seconds long, as many think. This piece in three movements is silent. The score instructs the performer to sit at his or her instrument, not playing. The “music” consists of the small surrounding noises, the creaks and coughs.
How did the musicians feel about doing it? As one said: “It was lovely to see a lot of people uncomfortable with hearing their own thoughts. You know, lots of people who, all they’ve heard is bass lines for the last ten years, and now they’re going: ‘Silence?! What do I do?’. But I got it once I was in there, that idea that it’s not always about the noise you’re making, it can be about the noise you’re not making. There was something quite lovely about it”.
The outcome is up to the public and how they respond. As one participant mused: “For some it will be about beating the ‘X-Factor’. Some people want it to be all about raising funds for charity. For others it is about honouring a classical composer. And for some people, they will just find it a really wonderfully funny joke – which, to be honest, was exactly what it originally set out to be”
The finished single is released now and for sale, with proceeds going to five charities.