Bits and Pieces: The Penguin Book of Rock and Pop Facts and Trivia (Steve Smith 1988) has a useful section on silence in music. Naturally it starts with John Cage's piece entitled 4′33". I have seen the sheet music for this which, as I recall, has instructions about opening a piano and closing it at the end, after 4 minutes 33 seconds of obligatory silence. Smith notes that the performer, 'usually a pianist,' is expected to use his fingers to show the audience which of the song's three parts they are listening to… In Wikipedia's piece they mention that Frank Zappa recorded it as part of A Chance Operation: The John Cage Tribute on the Koch label in 1993. It was also recorded by Swedish electronic rockers Covenant in 2000 (the piece was entitled You Can Make Your Own Music.)
4'33" was first publicly performed in 1952. In 1953 CBS issued a blank record entitled 3 Minutes of Silence - it was intended for juke boxes, enabling those tired of the music to purchase a few minutes of peace and quiet. Steve Smith notes 'Hush records released a similar disc in 1959.'
The last note of She's Leaving Home on The Beatle's Sergeant Pepper album lasts 43 seconds - the last part of which appears to be silence but is at a high frequency only audible to dogs.Continue reading