Depeche Mode, Moby, New Order and Einstürzende Neubauten are among the artists who are performing composer John Cage’s famously tacit work, 4’33” on a new compilation. The avant-garde composer issued the work in 1952, confounding critics and musicians alike for decades by making the sound of the room the piece is “performed” in the lead instrument; musicians are asked not to play. The musicians’ new recordings of the piece will appear on STUMM433, a Mute Records compilation, and all are past or present artists on the label’s roster. It’s due out in May.
Each musician created a visual accompaniment for their interpretation. Among the recordings is a rendition by Laibach, the Slovenian experimental collective who recently visited North Korea. The group made a video of their performance, which lasts more than seven minutes (contrary to popular believe, the piece doesn’t need to run four minutes and 33 second), which shows a person dropping the needle on a floating turntable and then a group of people playing a unique game of four-person chess with bullet-shaped pieces. One member plays the game in the nude. It ends quietly.
The compilation features 50 Mute artists, including its first signing, the Normal, and its latest, Káryyn. Other artists who participated include Wire, the Afghan Whigs, Cabaret Voltaire, Erasaure, Goldfrapp, Liars, Michael Gira, Mick Harvey and Nitzer Ebb.
“John Cage’s 4’33” has been present in my musical life for as long as I can remember as an important and inspiring composition,” Mute founder Daniel Miller commented in a statement. “When the idea of every Mute artist doing their own interpretation of the piece came up during a conversation with [actor and musician] Simon Fisher Turner, I immediately thought this was the perfect way to mark the label’s ‘Mute 4.0 (1978 > Tomorrow)’ series.”
Proceeds from the sale of the compilation will benefit both the British Tinnitus Association and Music Minds Matter. The donations are meant to honor late Insipiral Carpets drummer Craig Gill, who suffered from tinnitus and died by suicide in 2016.