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There Will Never Be Silence

When talking about modern day classical composers, the name John Cage will inevitably be mentioned along with his composition “4’33.” “4’33” is a piece where the performers do not play a single note between the time the conductor picks up their baton to the moment they put it down – the duration of which lasts exactly four minutes and thirty-three seconds. It is often referred to as John Cage’s “Silent Piece.” While many might claim the piece is “not music,” it actually had an extremely profound effect on the music scene by transferring the attention from the performer to the audience. Cage was not hoping to shock the audience with silence, but rather make them listen to silence in a new way – make the music dependent on what the listener hears around them. This technique of using minimalism to engage the audience was being used not only in music, but in visual art as well. MoMA seeks to explore this movement with their “There Will Never Be Silence” exhibit.

The exhibit starts out with the actual score to “4’33.” As you walk through the exhibit, you see more of John Cage’s work, including scores for prepared piano. Prepared piano is a piano that has been altered by placing objects between the stringers or on the hammers. As you round the first corner pieces or art begin to be incorporated including a large eggshell white painting titled “The Voice” by Barnett Newman. While the canvas at first appears nearly blank, as you look at it you will notice a vertical zip and white tones that echo what one might hear listening to 4’33. There are also scores to experimental composers other than John Cage. Poet Jackson Mac Low took one of John Cage’s experimental composition classes and came up with this masterpiece called Social Project #2.

Project 2 by Jackson Mac Low

Project 2 by Jackson Mac Low

Wouldn’t it be nice if this piece was played sooner rather than later?

Even Yoko Ono has a piece in this exihibition. Her work is entitled “Kitchen Piece” and reads: “Hang a canvas on a wall. Throw all the leftovers you have in the kitchen that day on the canvas. You may prepare special food for your piece.”

“There Will Never Be Silence” is part of the MoMA general admission price, so after you’re done experiencing John Cage and his contemporaries you can always wander around the rest of the museum. MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) is said to have the best collection of modern Western masterpieces in the world. Walking around the halls you’ll come face to face with paintings by Chagall, Picasso, Pollock, Rothko, Twombley, and Van Gogh, among others. Also be sure to check out the beautiful sculpture garden in the middle of the museum.

If you can find joy and life in silence and blank canvases, you will not want to miss “There Will Never Be Silence.” It will make you think about art and life in news ways. It will challenge and inspire you and, most importantly, give you a truly unique New York experience. The exhibit runs through June 22, 2014.

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