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Silent Rage 2010: England Decides to Cage Against the Machine

December 10, 2010

“You ever feel like you missed the boat on something?”, asks Doug Stanhope on his 2002 album Die Laughing, before launching into perhaps the most controversial moment of comedy in the last 10 years. In my own Stanhope moment, I found myself exasperatedly murmuring “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!” last week. This development, which is largely unrelated to Doug’s dream of instigating curricular warfare, involves our old friends on the Old Isle, once again providing us something almost as awesome as playing paintball with the cast of The Wire. Yes, I’m talking about the campaign to get the infamous 4’33” to the Top of the Pops as the curtain calls another year backstage.

Led by a blogger called CAGERAGE, this herculean effort aims to sleep (now) in the fire with “Killing in the Name”, the previous owner of the coveted spot. Sentient music fans across the globe aided two Britons in raging against the Simon Cowell machine, which once had a fistagon grip on the Christmas #1.  But instead of capturing the FM mayhem with a detonating mic, this Township Rebellion aims to add a voice for the voiceless by being voiceless. “Four minutes and thirty-three seconds” (or “4’33””), 1952’s second-most significant cultural creation (after Topps #311), is a clever piece of anti-music that features three movements – each of which asks the performer to open the piano, rest for a specific amount of time, and close the lid.  Cage, who was avant-garde before Edgard Varese declared the whole enterprise to be merely “a little late”, is a perfect foil for this endeavor – which is called (you guessed it) “Cage Against The Machine”.

This Los Angeleno came as close to full-on popularization of aleatorism in composition as one could get. It’s apropos that this hopefully-annual campaign would choose Cage as its subject for 2010, as his indeterminacy sought to do to traditionally-composed music as Huey Long did to the Bourbon Aristocracy. According to the Guardian (England’s paper of record), Cage himself would applaud such a ruckus, since he wrote the piece as a response to postwar commercialism, and wanted to throw a deafening silence into the wall-to-wall muzak that had taken over radio.

CAGERAGE managed to place as much effort in the capital campaign as he does in capital letters. (He’s well aware of his linguistic penchant – hence this (sic) sick quote: “The first thing you will notice, is that I’m not typing in caps lock. Caps lock has it’s uses, but in-depth reflections on a media storm is not one of them.”) So through the magic of social networking, Cage Against the Machine – the All-Star Recording was born. Featuring a list of luminaries so luminous you’ll need an anti-lumen device, this special edition will include Pete Doherty, Billy Bragg, Imogen Heap, the Big Pink, Heaven 17, and three (!) producers (which is still only half the number for the Hollies 1980s “comeback” album). It will also employ a “making-of” video, which will likely resemble a mishmash of “Sun City” and Pulp’s video for “Bad Cover Version”. No, Richard D. James is not planning a remix – but Mr. Scruff is! All in all, a smashing way to smash the pop machine. On my list of end-of-year reads is “Mellowmas”, Popdose’s annual tribute to the magma of Christmas music that oozes from artists like Chicago, The Goo Goo Dolls, Susan Boyle, and the actress that played “Laura” on General Hospital, may be able to add one more holiday favorite to their list – for what’s more mellow than no music at all?

All proceeds will benefit several charities (the British Tinnitus Association, Nordoff Robins Music Therapy, Youth Music, Sound and Music, and the Campaign Against Living Miserably). You too can join the scream of silence by purchasing the single here.

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