Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Kannenberg's 4'33" variations

Audio Tour: The 4'33" Museum

I have never seen/heard a performance of John Cage's 4'33" but have read about it. My understanding is that it involves a performance - the artist/s entering and undertaking the normal activities, sitting, lifting the piano lid etc - but that not creating music in the three parts of the piece, it is getting the audience to focus on the natural and unnatural sounds that fill a concert venue which is where the work is most likely to be performed.

The latest release from Stasisfield is by John Kannenberg (the label boss) and consists of 11 versions of the piece he has been 'performing' (his inverted commas) since 2005. His interpretation is to record the eponymous time in a museum or art gallery, but without the element of performance or having those present as the audience (as far as I can tell). We are the auditors hearing the variations of the different spaces - the Rock and Roll hall of Fame is a much louder place than the Rijksmuseum, the servers in Alexandria hum softly accompanied by soft voices, most are not surprisingly subdued.

A surprise is how quickly the time passes and how the venues drift into each other - not many have the Hall of Fames defining rock soundtrack, though voices and discussions vary from place to place. The selected site within the site for the performance would have a significant impact: a recording in the foyer, giftshop or cafe would be different to one in a gallery space. The piece becomes layered as you listen in your own environment - whether natural or with human additions.

And as Kannenberg suggests, the piece also comments on the relationship between gallery/museum and performance spaces.

But in the end what remains is a series of unedited audio snapshots that offer a glimpse of place and the pleasure that listening in provides.

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