Disclaimer: The following is somewhat in the form of a rant with no sources mainly because it is not something to be taken entirely seriously, but also because I feel like it is the best way to get across what I felt as I listened to 4'33".
What the fuck is this shit?! The first (and only) time I listened to this..."composition" (I refuse to call it a piece), all that went through my mind was "This is a joke, this isn't real, this is just some Youtuber trolling me by having a video about nothing". So I looked it up on Google. I learned that not only is this a real thing, but it is generally well received by people and various critics...four minutes and thirty-three seconds of nothing was well received by people. People sat and listened to nothing for four and half fucking minutes, and called John Cage a God damned genius for writing it and giving them the privilege of experiencing it. I'm sorry, but that is up there in terms of the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life.
As far as I can tell, there are three main groups of people who like this shit (there's probably more, but these are the three I can think of). The first are the people who think everything is art. These people are the type to think a gallery consisting of paint drying is incredibly engaging, so why not silence? The second group are the people who enjoy high art, especially the kinds that push the boundaries of the norm, so music consisting of silence? Why that's revolutionary! The third group are the hipsters who like it ironically, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean.
I pride myself on being able to like and listen to music from practically every genre of music, with the possible exception of a small set of genres that challenge what the definition of "music" is, for example Noise Music. My motto with respect to music is, "If it sounds good, it's probably worth listening to". The key point in that statement is the fact that there needs to be something to listen to! There is nothing worth listening to in this God damned waste of time. If I had paid money to attend a piano recital and some guy came out and, for four and a half bloody minutes, did nothing but keep time, I would feel (quite legitimately) ripped off.
What pisses me off the most about 4'33" though is the fact that people are celebrating it. I can't think of anything lazier or more pretentious than this. I mean even Noise Music requires some effort to create the noise. Cage probably just sat there at his composing desk, went through four minutes and thirty-three seconds of writer's block, and then suddenly had the brilliant idea to exhibit to the whole world the vacuum of his mind during that period of time. To add to that, he sued another composer who "composed" a variation of 4'33". One composer who composed something consisting entirely of silence sued another composer who composed something consisting of a different length of silence. I wish I was making this up, but even fiction isn't this ridiculous.
I get that the point of 4'33" is to showcase the natural sounds of the place where it is being "performed". It is supposed to be something that includes the audience, one where any and all sounds made by all those present contribute to the unique interpretations of this composition. To add to that, it also has a more subtle characteristic, namely that of bringing out emotions that might not ever come up while listening to more conventional music. For example, in my case it was anticipation, followed by confusion, and finally irritation bordering on rage.
However, that doesn't mean it should be thought of as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Yes, it is somewhat clever, but it is also lazy and pretentious. Waiting for Godot is, for all practical purposes, about nothing. However, it somehow manages to get the viewer wanting to know more about what happens. 4'33" on the other hand manages to get the listener wondering "What am I doing with my life?". Claude Debussy may have said "Music is the space between the notes", but this is pushing it.
In a world dominated by electronic devices, staying connected all the time, always being distracted by something or the other, and never letting oneself get bored, one might argue that going to a "performance" of 4'33" would be a nice and needed break from the fast pace of modern life. However there are so many ways of achieving the same thing without having to call some lazy prick a genius for it. Take a walk in the park, listen to the birds and the sounds of nature; go sit by a waterfront and watch the waves roll in, the sea birds fly over the water, the boats bob up and down; go take a hike in the hills, get outside the bustle of society for a bit.
If I was to review this, I would give it a 0/10, and not only because there was nothing to review. 4'33" is the epitome of phrase "leaves something to be desired". Something? How about anything? Possibly the worst consequence of having listened to this is I now end up having to admit that although Ass by Big Sean, We Dem Boyz by Wiz Khalifa, and Anaconda by Nicki Minaj are examples of terrible, terrible music, at least they're still music and as such, still better than 4'33".
Still, it moved me enough to create this writeup, so I suppose that counts for something.