Friday, 15 October 2010

Cage Against The Machine

Pray Silence for Baby Jesus!

Not that I'd recommend this particular social networking site to anyone; no indeed, not even to my own worst enemy (who incidentally just missed her 85th birthday party, due to flu; do get well soon, Margaret). But I've just had the pleasure of joining a Facebook group, entitled JOHN CAGE'S 4'33'' FOR CHRISTMAS NUMBER ONE 2010:

This one simply mixes together far, far too many subjects so near and dear to my heart. Primarily, puns: Cage Against The Machine, that's only priceless. Then, there's the avant-garde. And specifically, the music and other sundry ambient stylings of one Mr John Cage.

Then too there's the commercialisation of Christmas. Which actually, to an agnostic like me, is just a convenient placeholder for rampant, wasteful and ultimately pointless consumerism. But it's there, it's in the mix of what makes this story so irresistible.

Above all, there is the bottom-dredging trawler damage done annually, and throughout the year, by the giant black hole of popular culture, the musical dead zone, the infecting, suppurating, all-extinguishing oil slick, that is Simon Cowell and his X-Factor.

About "4:33"

For the uninitiated, John Cage's musical composition 4'33" is made up of four and a half minutes of complete silence. Or rather, of whatever ambient noise happens to become generated by a suitably sized orchestra, sitting in their seats in a fully occupied concert hall, and concentrating entirely upon doing absolutely nothing for that particular length of time.

The new campaign follows last Christmas's successful Internet based promotion of Rage Against The Machine's song Killing In The Name, that managed to deny X Factor contagion Joe McElderry's The Climb the Christmas number one slot to which some rich, wastelaying suits with haircuts thought it was entitled.

This time around, we are being asked to purchase instead a digital copy of John Cage's silent classic. What a perfect statement that would be, and how beautifully spotless an irony, should the bandwagon that has brutally silenced the once traditional battle for that Christmas No.1 spot, find itself - quite literally - silenced in its turn.

There's just one fly in the balm. Presumably, certain of the profits from the expected avalanche of sales would go to The John Cage Trust. Now, these people are the publishers who trolled a six figure settlement out of our very own Mike Batt, for his track "A One Minute Silence". Said track consists of, that's right, one minute of silence; and it is credited, whether in fun or in homage or both, to "Batt/Cage". Yes, yes, I know, such royalty trolling is nothing new in the music business. But this one case has always struck me as a particularly egregious example of the extortionist's art, the meritless extraction of money with menaces; it will pain me to make this purchase. As nevertheless I must, when the time comes.

One Last Thing

Oh, and to anyone else in the office who's reading this: I think it might be best if I don't take part in the Secret Santa this year, not after this little outburst anyway. So, Humbug to all that, don't you agree?

Update, 12/12: Shit. Bloody X-Factor winner is one of my favourite Biffy Clyro songs. And it's an even better version than the mighty Biff (though NME's Luke Lewis would disagree). Now I'm threatening both to boycott and to buy it...

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