What 4’33” is

Julian Dodd

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What is John Cage's 4'33"? This paper disambiguates this question into three sub-questions concerning, respectively, the work’s ontological nature, the art form it belongs to, and the genre it is in. We shall see that the work’s performances consist of silence (rather than containing environmental sounds), that it is a work of performance art (rather than music), and that it belongs to the genre of conceptual art. Seeing the work in these ways helps us to understand it better, and promises to assuage somewhat the puzzlement and irritation of those who are at first resistant to its charms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralasian Journal of Philosophy
Early online date20 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • John Cage
  • ontology
  • art form
  • Genre
  • music
  • conceptual art


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