Organized Sound, Sounds Heard, and Silence

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 10 (2023)
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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 Kansas

Citations of this work

The philosophy of music.Andrew Kania - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Seeing dark things: the philosophy of shadows.Roy A. Sorensen - 2008 - New York: Oxford University Press.
What 4′33″ Is.Julian Dodd - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (4):629-641.
On Defining Music.Stephen Davies - 2012 - The Monist 95 (4):535-555.

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