Title: What 4’33” is

26 October 2016; 1600-18:00

Senate House – Room G34


This paper gives a maximally informative answer to the following question: ‘What is John Cage’s 4”33″?’. This it does by disambiguating this question into three sub-questions concerning, respectively, the work’s ontological nature, the artform it belongs to, and the genre(s) 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 theatre (rather than music), and that it belongs to the genre of conceptual art. Seeing the work in these ways helps us both to understand it better and to somewhat assuage the puzzlement and irritation of those who are at first resistant to its charms.