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The Sound Of Crushing Silence: A Death-Metal Band Covers John Cage's '4'33"'

Dead Territory covers 4'33". (Courtesy of the artist)closemore
Dead Territory covers 4'33". (Courtesy of the artist)

In 2000, Will Hermes wrote beautifully of the monumental work 4'33" that "[John] Cage gave musicians aesthetic permission, spiritual encouragement even, to go beyond the tonalities of standard instrumentation and engage with the infinite possibilities of sound." So here we are, 64 years after its debut performance by pianist David Tudor, and the death-metal band Dead Territory — its members clad in raver pants, or a Slipknot T-shirt, or wielding Jackson and B.C. Rich guitars — has covered the composition that sets upon the wonder of silence.

The video's a year old — almost to the day, in fact — but was recently shared by experimental musician and Hanson Records owner Aaron Dilloway. Dead Territory doesn't break its performance into noticeable movements as written by Cage, but the point's moot. There's a setup, earplugs go in, a brief guitar chug, a drum-stick count-off and... silence. It's brutal (okay, it's not), but it is another in a long line of 4'33" performances that understand Cage had a sense of humor while expanding our musical universe.

Copyright NPR 2016.

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