Barre, VT- If no one is there to hear 4’33’’, is it really played? That’s what city officials recently discussed when deciding whether or not to tear down the former meeting place of Bethlehem Lutheran Church.
John Bates, a local music professor at Goddard College, voiced his opinion when he heard the building being discussed. He knew a grand piano was sitting inside.
“I could not let them get away with this,” said John. “They could not just tear down a building when clearly there is music being made there every day: John Cage’s 4’33”.”
John Cage’s 4’33” is a piece in which the instrumentalist sits at their instrument for 4 minutes and 33 seconds in silence. The “music” then is the ambiance of the concert hall.
Musicologists disagree as to whether the performance in Barre is a legitimate performance, as no one is seated at the piano. But Professor Bates is convinced that this indeed a legitimate performance.
Professor Bates proposed a solution to the problem, in that the city sell tickets to anyone who would like to visit and watch the performances. Also, students of Goddard College who visit the building would fulfill the concert attendance requirement for the Music Appreciation course.
Bates convinced city officials to put his plan into action, and since then the town has raised enough from the concerts to get out of a deficit.
Despite the church being near an apartment complex, residents have not complained of noise.