Sheet music for John Cage's 4' 33"


You can purchase the sheet music for John Cage's 4' 33" from Sheet Music Plus. It's $5.95 and that will be money well spent. (For those not hip to this challenging 1952 composition, it is a classic of avant-garde music in which the performer plays nothing for the duration of the piece.) "4' 33" sheet music (Thanks, Syd Garon!)


  1. This is actually the 2nd version of the sheet notation. The first version is graphical and much cooler.

  2. The point of the piece is to call attention to the nature of silence, for the record. It is supposed to go in the middle of a concert and make the audience aware of the huge number of tiny sounds that happen in our every day lives which we normally don’t notice. People coughing, chairs creaking, the ventilation in the room, all of these things. 

  3. I keep waiting for someone to get a DMCA takedown for allegedly sampling a recording of this.

    1. I know!  I’ve seen at least a dozen YouTube videos in the last week using this – uncredited, mind you – for the soundtrack!

  4. `The performer doesn’t necessarily do nothing. The performer is supposed to mark the division of time specified by cage,so that the audience’s perception of sound is grouped into three distinct sections. This goes back to Cage’s observation that the fundamental part of music is time, rather than pitch or frequency. Tudor indicated the three sections by opening and closing the lid of the piano. This has been followed by most performers, but it might be indicated by any action deemed appropriate by the performer (within vague boundaries … see interviews with Cage).

      1. By the same sophistic terms (and the terms of the piece itself), the inescapable creaks and touches of the lid as it opens and closes can be considered “playing” the piano.

        1. That’s exactly right.  Except you apparently have judged Cage and found him wanting.  I am sure he would be devastated if he was alive.

  5. Hey! I posted stuff about this back at his anniversary just a month back, so how about this:

    Consider buying some sheet music of George Crumb’s and using it as wall art. Or play it! That’s cool too. But George’s music is the most stunning to -look- at… Check it out!

    A superficial google search isn’t showing enough neat stuff, but it is worth seeking out. And the images above fail to convey how -big- his scores are, as well.

    A personal favorite: Ancient Voices of Children — which can be purchased at sheetmusicplus as well, but the images there don’t do it justice.

  6. Not sure if it’s deliberate or a glitch, but I like that the main page consistently shows ‘0 comments’ for this story…

  7. I’m tempted to buy a copy, just to see if it has a section similiar to that legendary IBM(?) technical manual which had a section “This page, and the next five pages, are intentionally left blank”.

  8. I wanted to take this piece to state competition in high school, but my band director said he didn’t think the judges would appreciate the humor of it.  Looking back, I think a few of them would, especially if I showed a decent amount of musicianship.

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