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No Such Thing as Silence (Icons of America Series) Paperback – 1 Feb 2011
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"'Gann's book perfectly proves Cage's belief that putting a frame around silence can be as rewarding as music itself.' (Andrew Male, Mojo) '4'33", Gann argues, though often suspected of being merely a 'provocative stunt', is actually one of the best understood and most influential works of avant-garde music... In describing the piece's premieres and reception, Gann recaptures its 'Promethean' impact, which cost Cage some friends and prompted his mother to ask, "Don't you think that John has gone too far this time?'" (The New Yorker)"
About the Author
Kyle Gann is Associate Professor of Music at Bard College, a composer, and former new-music critic for the Village Voice. He lives in Germantown, NY.
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OK so if the orchestra is not playing you can still hear some noises. Big deal and so what. A child of 4 or 5 could tell you that but wouldn't have his utterings revered for decades after
If you want to hear an interesting comment on silence go and buy "talking seattle grunge rock blues" by Todd Snider. At least that's funny, especially when on their unplugged record the band "refuses to play acoustical versions of the songs they refused to play in the first place"
So if we have already heard enough of and about the original "work" WHY another book???
Please spare us this waste of our time and money
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
And I was not disappointed. Gann's analysis of this seminal work of the avant garde addresses the social context of the piece as well as the various criticisms of it. And in so doing he makes it clear that this is, as he says, the best known work of the avant garde as well as a very important work from which we can understand much of what came later including minimalism, art "happenings" and indeterminate methods. He correctly positions it as a sort of "urtext" piece much like Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring".
Gann does this in an eminently readable style with a very complete set of references and a discography (yes, the "silent piece" has been recorded many times). He even gives strategies by which a performer can approach the interpretation of the score.
This can be read with equal benefit by academics, musicians and general readers.
I have to give this a 3-star rating however because the Kindle edition does not have any of the images in the book. The rights apparently were not obtained for the electronic medium. This is a great disservice to the readers. In addition, there is no warning on the Kindle page that this book is in anyway incomplete, which it is. Yes, the Kindle version is much cheaper, and we pay for it dearly.
I highly recommend the book, but if you get it, get the print version.
And that's that. Gann warns us that his book will not add to Cage scholarship, that he will only endeavour to gather current Cage research in one place.
In my view he achieves both less than this, and more.
Less, because after reading No Such Thing As Silence I'm still no closer to understanding Cage the person or Cage the composer. Gann mentions a lot of antecendents and possible influences, but as he says himself, Cage probably misunderstood most of what he read ("Cage collects authors to buttress his views on music and life but often projects his own meanings into them, taking what views he needs and transforming them to fit into his own context"), and the constant name-dropping ("Cage was one of the great name-droppers in twentieth-century music. Sometimes he did no more than drop them.") gets tiring.
Gann also achieves more than he set out to do, though. Ever since I came across Cage in Gödel, Escher, Bach, I connected him to Satie and Zappa in my head. I associated Cage with self-deprecating humour. The Cage that Gann describes is a self-righteous, humourless and thoroughly arrogant person.
-- Oh, and the book had the singular distinction of begin the first Amazon.com item in fifteen years I'm asking a refund for: the Kindle version has no illustrations whatsoever. "Rights were not granted to include this illustration in electronic media. Please refer to print publication" is all it says.