An ensemble of enthusiastic amateur musicians have received overwhelming criticism for their “inadequate” rendition of John Cage’s 4’33”.
One reviewer called attention to the whispering between performers during the performance, calling it “undisciplined”, whilst another accused a trombone not-player of texting during the piece. It was clear the ensemble hadn’t learnt their parts thoroughly, several members of the ensemble reportedly looking as if they were about to play a note, before nervously deciding against it. “They just lacked any conviction”, a local paper states bluntly.
Many reviews appear self-congratulatory, claiming that the audience did most of the work for the musicians.
Most audience members also complained of the piece lagging, ending up lasting nearly twenty minutes, and at times appearing simply to be an awkward silence in which the performers contemplated their ineptitude.
“It was as if someone had made a joke about dead babies” one man says, and everyone was just anxiously waiting for the situation to diffuse.”
“Out of their depth”
Most commentators have suggested these novice musicians were out of their depth, simply not possessing the technical ability required to nail the piece. However, others have been kinder, proposing the ensemble was just too small.
“It’s a classic case of not messing with the classics. Everyone has their own favourite memory of the piece, and a group of students are only going to end up butchering it.”
“It’s a piece which people really love. Families perform it at the dinner table when they have nothing better to do, and a virtuosic rendition has been known to win big favours from mobsters. I personal had it as a ring tone for quite some time, although that admittedly did cause some issues.”
Those more lenient amongst the audience have blamed the performance environment, saying the toilets were too close by, and at times one could hear the miasmic melee a touch too clearly.
“It felt depressingly symbolic” admits conductor Gunter Hasselhoven.
The Real Question
Was what they performed even really 4’33”? Given it’s radical deviation from what is accepted, some in the art community have hailed the performance as “challenging the very nature of challenging the very nature of music”