John Cage’s silence, famously formalized in his work 4’33”, was a concentrated diffusion of focus, in which authorial intent was voided via structured indeterminacy. The composition itself moved textually from classicist notation (1952) to event score (1967). In my performance, I left the studio for the duration of the piece, setting the timer on my phone as I announced the start of the performance. After a few moments, some members of the audience came out to see what I was doing; others stayed in the room, apparently debating what to do, whether to keep silent, or not. They then resumed doing what they had been doing before the interruption; I returned four minutes and 33 seconds later, and announced the end of the performance, as well as the title of the work.
The later Cage believed 4’33” needed no performer, only listeners. Other performances of 4’33”, to my knowledge, have preserved the position of the performer. Here, the audience became both performers and performance. Listening and performing each to each, they alone constructed the piece within the confines of the three-part score. And, it goes without saying, did so with the requisite aesthetic and epistemological disinterest—which is always lingual—that marks silence as something which is not nothing; i.e., “There is no such thing as silence.” Or, as I said after my performance, “I have nothing to say / and I am not saying it / and that too is poetry / as I needed it.”