Music stars launch their silent protest against Cowell

Cage's silent composition gets the Live Aid treatment. Rebecca Gonsalves reports

Rehearsals had been brief. A single page of sheet music was passed around the packed recording studio at the last minute, as musicians clutching their instruments were abuzz with the camaraderie of rebellion. Lined up on a grand piano were phones linking to Billy Bragg and Imogen Heap, each offering long distance contributions. In the control room, producer Paul Epworth struggled to make himself heard over the cacophony to count the artists in, and then... four minutes and 33 seconds of precious silence – one of this year's more unlikely contenders for the coveted Christmas No 1.

A small army of artists including Suggs, Luke Pritchard from indie rock band The Kooks, The Guillemots and spoken word artist Dan Le Sac descended on a tiny recording studio in Soho yesterday to make their mark on one of the most controversial pieces of "music"; John Cage's entirely silent composition 4'33", first released in 1952.

The work is broken into three movements, and the performers could be seen at first to enjoy the novelty of the self-imposed silence, before slowly getting into the groove. During the second movement impromptu Band Aid style swaying led by Pritchard broke out around the piano.

Inspired by the success of last year's Facebook-led campaign which saw rap metal band Rage against the Machine seeing off the might of Simon Cowell's X Factor to the Christmas No 1 spot with the re-release of their track "Killing in the Name Of", this year's effort labelled Cage against the Machine started as a joke on the social networking site.

The original composition was Cage's reaction to the continuous aural assault of post-war America, filled with muzak and jingles, the spirit of which is alive in this poignant homage. However, it is impossible to record true silence and the recording of yesterday's performance was punctuated by the bass of creaking leather jackets and the gentle percussion of breathing bodies.

When the single is released on Monday, proceeds will go to four charities, including the Campaign Against Living Miserably, a charity that tackles suicide in young men. Several of the artists were invited to take part by members of the English band Ou Est Le Swimming Pool, whose singer Chazz Haddon committed suicide at music festival in Germany in August.

Madness frontman Suggs said: "I've never heard musicians silent for more than two seconds in my life. I just wanted to experience it."

He added: "But Charlie was a close friend of my daughters, it was a very tragic story and that's really why I'm here. And to have a bit of fun as well, by knocking X Factor off No 1 with silence, wouldn't be such a bad thing."

Silent spats

While the American composer John Cage's 1952 piece, 4'33", is the most notorious example of musical silence, another similarly themed composition caused controversy in 2002. Mike Batt, a musician who had a hit in the 1970s with "The Wombles", was threatened with court action by Cage's publishers, Peters Edition, who accused him of breaching copyright on 4'33" with his own silent work, "A Minute's Silence". Mr Batt tried to prove that his piece differed from Cage's by staging a recital at London's Baden Powell House in July 2002. Cage's publishers retorted by hiring a clarinettist to perform 4'33". Eventually an out-of-court settlement saw Mr Batt pay a six-figure sum to the John Cage Trust.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor