Organized Sound, Sounds Heard, and Silence

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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In this paper I argue that composer John Cage’s so-called ‘silent piece’, 4’33”, is music. I first defend it against the charge that it does not involve the organization of sound, which has been taken to be a necessary feature of music. I then argue that 4’33” satisfies the only other condition that must be met for it to be music: it bears the right socio-historical connections to its predecessors within its tradition (Western art music). I argue further that one cannot understand the organized sound condition and the socio-historical condition separately and that understanding their interaction has theoretical benefits – not least of which is providing a groundwork for a more culturally inclusive philosophy of music. Finally, I consider a number of outstanding questions concerning the content of the organized sound condition for Western art music in the wake of 4’33”.



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Douglas Wadle
University of Southern California

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References found in this work

Silent Music.Andrew Kania - 2010 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (4):343-353.
On Defining Music.Stephen Davies - 2012 - The Monist 95 (4):535-555.
What Is Music? Is There a Definitive Answer?Jonathan Mckeown-Green - 2014 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 72 (4):393-403.

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