This record belongs to the category of musical objects that delight collectors and researchers. We are in 2002 and the obscure Korm Plastics label in Amsterdam makes this CD entitled 45’18 “which contains nine versions of 4’33” by various artists, or more precisely some versions plus some tributes to the piece. Korm Plastics was founded in 1984 by Frans de Waard. The choice, from the beginning, to publish only cassettes gives a clue about the radicality and nonconformity of this label which, in 1992, joined in twinning with the most famous Staalplaat, one of the largest independent labels for experimental music and electronics, with an average of three new releases every month. Staalplaat was the home of bands like Muslimgauze,: zoviet * france:, Rapoon, O Yuki, Conjugate and Jaap Blonk, Normally Invisible and Kingdom Scum. In 2003, Korm Plastics separated from Staalplaat, effectively closing an epic and exhilarating era, but continuing a high quality production.
In 2002, Korm Plastics produced this record, 45’18 “, the first collection of 4’33” versions, the silent piece by John Cage. An album that is at the same time a utopia, an aesthetic operation and a joke to Cage. Cage didn’t believe in recordings and didn’t listen to them, and he undoubtedly preferred his 4’33 “live, which he claimed to listen to over and over a day. Despite this, the silent piece had already been recorded, undoubtedly disturbing the panoramas of Mr. Cage, freezing over time not fragments of music but of sonorous life. 45’18 “goes further, this is the first anthology on the nonconformism of silence.
Recording this piece requires the choice of a precise point of view from which to consider and listen to it. It’s possible to publish a recording of complete digital silence and allow the listener to enjoy the sound phenomena in his home; this approach treats the passage more than anything else as a philosophical idea. Or, you can play the piece in front of a microphone, allowing enough environmental or accidental sounds to penetrate to testify that you have performed the musical gesture; this approach takes note of the theatrical nature of the piece, of the mutual awareness between performer and listener. Or it’s possible to record four and a half minutes in an intentionally not silent environment, allowing the listener to indirectly experience a space different from the one in which he is located; this approach underlines the sensoriality of the cagean appreciation of the ambient sounds. In this collection there are examples of all three approaches.
The performances of Keith Rowe (guitarist of the improvisation group AMM) and of the Deep Listening Band of Pauline Oliveros are as silent as is humanly possible, although a human presence is discernible. Instead Thurston Moore, the Sonic Youth guitarist, uses 4’33 “to release the sounds that he and the other musicians felt to play, in a” rough scenario of impromptu and improvised music “. Jio Shimizu records the noise of a “Silent” record on vinyl playing, while the Swiss electronic duo Voice Crack offers faint and distant machine noises. Perhaps the most creative version, made by the electronic duo Alignment (Radboud Mens and Mark Poysden), presents electronic metaphors for silence: three smooth screeching movements, resonant pops and harsh vibrations that are actually artifacts from various digitally amplified recording processes.
It is an interesting collection, for a long time the only one on the subject, until November 2019 when Mute Records created STUMM433 a box containing 58 covers of the John Cage song. An interpretive orgy of noise and silence with steroids.
The inaudibility of silence has perhaps never been demonstrated in such a deafening way.