December 15, 2010

Cage Against the Machine: Punk Silence? Music for Meditation.

Is silence the new loud?

Meditation emphasizes  the space between thoughts, composer John Cage highlighted the silent space between notes.  Can such a song go #1?  “Silent night” taken seriously.

A group of British musicians are attempting to make a unique song hit the top of the charts in time for Christmas.

Chief among these musicians is famed pop-punk-folk singer and worker’s rights activist Billy Bragg.  Bragg, who has been aptly referred to as “a one-man-Clash,” and his friends may here have attained the zenith of punk music – and are offering the world a profound spiritual experience if they’re willing to receive it.  As a certain Yeshua of Nazareth once put it, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Mark 4:9)

The following is from today’s New York Times Arts Beat Blog:

From December 14, 2010, 12:06 PM
Just in Time for the Holidays: Cage Against the Machine

The musicians crowded into a London studio, dozens of them, to record a song for charity. Waiting for their cue, they held guitars and drumsticks, and stood at attention by the microphones. Then the producer gave the count: “Quiet in the studio: one, two …”

And then silence. Exactly 4 minutes and 33 seconds of it.

The musicians, including British pop stars like Billy Bragg, the electronic act Orbital and the band Enter Shikari, were there to perform John Cage’s famous tribute to nothingness, “4’ 33”,” as part of a project cheekily called Cage Against the Machine whose goal is to send an unlikely song to the top of the British pop chart at Christmas.

Last year a Facebook campaign helped the anarchist American rock band Rage Against the Machine reach No. 1 with “Killing in the Name,” and now another Web effort is behind Cage Against the Machine. A single is available on iTunes (you can even buy an EP with seven “remixes” of studio chatter and other random sounds), with proceeds going to five British charities.

“Music is made up of more than just formal notes and arrangements,” Julie Hilliard, one of the organizers, told the musicians as they prepared for their silent take. “Here today we are doing something special. We are stopping and appreciating the space between things, the unintentional sounds that make up our world.”


This genius of this song reminds me of one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons:

Calvin: “The problem with rock ‘n’ roll is that the generation that created it is now the establishment. Rock pretends it’s still rebellious with its video posturing, but who believes it? The stars are 45-year-old zillionaires or they endorse soft drinks! The ‘revolution’ is a capitalist industry! Give me a break! Fortunately I’ve found some protest music for today’s youth! This stuff really offends mom and dad!”
Hobbes: “Easy-listening muzak?”
Calvin: “I play it real quiet, too.”

Silent Night y’all.


p.s. Being a campus chaplain, I’d like to add a “shout-out” to The Day of Silence set for April 15, 2011.

pps.  My new book, Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity, should be available the first week of January.

Read 7 Comments and Reply

Read 7 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Roger Wolsey  |  Contribution: 12,700