The drone of amplifiers, the rustling of tightly-packed bodies and the creaking of leather jackets. That, it turns out, is the sound of rock’n’roll silence.
Yesterday afternoon scores of musicians forced themselves into a tiny recording studio in Soho for a performance of John Cage’s 4′ 33” – a piece of music in which the artists plug in, tune up, and then don’t play a note or sing a word for four minutes’ and thirty-three seconds.
First recorded by the American composer John Cage in 1952, the piece questions the very meaning of silence – when no-one plays, in fact you hear other sounds instead. In this case, with these musicians, it was the sound of shuffling biker boots.
First of all there was the mayhem of cramming some 60 artists into a 300 sq ft session room, set up with grand piano, drum kit and guitars.
Then sheet music was handed out with notation explaining how to go about playing silence.
As the piece began, there was a reverential quiet as rockers young and old got used to the idea. Sure, they’ve been told to turn it down all their lives, but shutting up voluntarily?
But two minutes in, one artist dressed head-to-toe in pink, raised his arms in the air and waved, and then everyone began to sway and smile to the silent rhythm of the infamous 4′ 33”.
The musicians taking part in Monday’s recording included Suggs of Madness, The Kooks, The Guillemots, Dan Le Sac, Imogen Heap and Orbital. Proceeds from the single, which will be released on 13th December, will go to four UK charities, including CALM.
The charities were not chosen by accident – from the British Tinnitus Association to CALM — each deals with the heavy implications of silence, or the lack of it. They are also causes few people like to talk about.
Several of the musicians were brought on board by members of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, whose lead singer Chazz Haddon took his own life at a music festival in August.
The Cage Against the Machine campaign has a 69,000-strong Facebook campaign to try to force the single into the coveted Christmas number one spot.
Amid the cacophony of saccahrine pop and Christmas schmaltz, radio station DJs up and down the country will be forced to impose a moment of quiet reflection onto the airwaves instead.
To get an email reminder & chart eligible buy link on December 13th. to purchase the single at the right time to get it to Christmas No 1 go here