A cartoon by a man named Cage about a silent piano score was published 20 years before John Cage’s 4’33”

27 September 2019, 10:51

John Cage
John Cage. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

20 years before John Cage’s 4’33”, a man named Hy created a cartoon about a silent piano work. Hy’s last name? Cage.

In John Cage’s 1952 piano composition 4’33”, the performer is famously instructed to sit at the instrument in silence, for four minutes and 33 seconds.

American music critic Kyle Gann has found this cartoon in a 1932 edition of The Etude, a magazine for pianists.

The cartoon tells of a young boy, who composes a silent work for the piano. The cartoonist’s name? Hy Cage.

Who was John Cage?

John Cage (1912 - 1992) was one of the 20th century’s most prominent experimental composers.

Dabbling with electronics, tape loops and, most famously, complete silence, he changed the way art music was perceived.

His compositions spanned a huge variety of media, theoretical ideas and quirky ways of playing conventional instruments.

In 1952, Cage’s created his most famous and controversial piece, 4’33”, which consists of nothing but silence – in three movements – from performers. The idea behind the work is to encourage listeners to focus on the ambient noise in the performance room.