Invoking Cage in a quest for silence

Posted on: December 20, 2010

In Sunday’s (12/19) Los Angeles Times, Mark Swed writes, “ ‘In the Middle Ages,’ Sara Maitland writes in her brilliant ‘A Book of Silence,’ ‘Christian scholastics argued that the devil’s basic strategy was to bring human beings to a point where they are never alone with their God, nor ever attentively face to face with another human being.’ Hence our Faustian pact with Facebook, with cellphones, with virtual everything. … Silence is being hailed as the solution. John Cage’s 1952 silent piece, “4’33”,’ is the theme song. The Brits are calling it ‘Cage Against the Machine,’ and the movement for a silent night this Christmas, or Cagemas, has gone viral. … This movement, moreover, is being bolstered by a small library of new books, books with real pages (Cage against the iPad?). Besides Maitland’s profound meditations on silence, I have before me more than a dozen recent tomes on noise and its alternative. Some are quixotic pursuits by lovable noise cranks, decibel meters always in geeky hand (George Prochnik’s ‘In Pursuit of Silence,’ Gordon Hempton’s ‘One Square Inch of Silence’ and George Michelsen Foy’s ‘Zero Decibels’). These authors scream against noise, reminding us of its health hazards—hypertension, aggression, stress, learning disorders, hearing loss, heart disease.”

Posted December 20, 2010