Silent Music

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2010


In this essay, I investigate musical silence. I first discuss how to integrate the concept of silence into a general theory or definition of music. I then consider the possibility of an entirely silent musical piece. I begin with John Cage’s 4′33″, since it is the most notorious candidate for a silent piece of music, even though it is not, in fact, silent. I conclude that it is not music either, but I argue that it is a piece of non-musical sound art, rather than simply a piece of theatre, as Stephen Davies has argued. I end with consideration of several other candidates for entirely silent pieces, concluding that two of these are in fact pieces of music consisting entirely of silence.

Document Object Identifier (DOI)


Publication Information

The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism

Included in

Philosophy Commons