MoMA/MoMA PS1 Records
There Will Never Be Silence

There Will Never Be Silence, the debut release from MoMA/MoMA PS1 Records, launches September 2014.

Curators' Note

This record pays homage to John Cage, and to an exhibition presented at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, from October 12, 2013, to June 22, 2014, titled There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4'33". In 1954, in a letter to a friend, Cage wrote that his so-called “silent piece, 4'33" (1952), “is not actually silent (there will never be silence . . . ).” The exhibition used the Museum’s collection to present a contextual history for the oldest surviving copy of Cage’s score, 4'33" (In Proportional Notation) (1952/53), which MoMA acquired in 2012. Ranging from Marcel Duchamp to Ian Wilson, it addressed the way works of art, whether they are resolved principally in the mind or in the eye, can be informed by what is physically absent from them. In activating them the viewer seeks out affinities encompassing what lies beyond the frame, in the environment where the work is set. Cage’s letter invoked the same process for aural experience: “What we hear is determined by our own emptiness, our own receptivity; we receive to the extent we are empty to do so. . . . This is an action among the ten thousand: it moves in all directions and will be received in unpredictable ways.”

A number of paths delivered Cage to his completion of 4'33", in August 1952, following the first public discussion leading toward the work in 1948. This narrative—the narrative of his formation as a composer—owes as much to his relationships with a previous generation of avant-garde musicians as to the visual artists who lent him perspectives that aural experiences alone could not shape. Cage said he disliked listening to recorded music, that the capture of music within a vinyl LP rendered it final, deprived of chance and of the possibility of spontaneity. Artworks for him were rarely static objects.

Sixty years after Cage’s letter we reconsider silence, the lack of silence, and the status of recorded sound. For the first album from MoMA/MoMA PS1 Records we asked four artists to produce contemporary answers to Cage's statement “there will never be silence.” The project intends to augment and extend the Museum’s 2013 acquisition of the Steven Leiber Aural Collection, an archive of over 349 audio works, dating from 1959 to 2010, by more than 150 international artists. The archive was compiled by the San Francisco–based art dealer and collector Steven Leiber over a span of twenty years before his death in 2012.

The four artists on the present record are all residents of New York City, albeit from very diverse artistic and generational backgrounds. Their works provide an insight into the modalities of current sound production and shed light on how far Cage’s ideas about sound and its intrinsic relationships to the environment have progressed in diverging directions; in some cases the affinity to Cage is more conscious, in others less. Whereas Lizzie Bougatsos (American, b. 1974), a visual artist and the front woman of the band Gang Gang Dance, takes the listener on a rather personal, disjointed sonic journey, the sculptor Kevin Beasley (American, b. 1985) records a work—originally performed in MoMA’s Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium in 2012—in which he processes a cappella voices of dead rappers and tests their sonic materiality for political relevance. The seventy-eight-year-old Fluxus artist Yasunao Tone (Japanese, b. 1936), a contemporary and collaborator of Cage’s, delivers the most “unsilent” recording on the album: by coaxing monstrous sounds out of MP3 processing mechanisms—a ubiquitous yet inaudible part of everyday audio devices—he continues his relentless endeavor of freeing sounds from representation. Cage’s axiom of indeterminacy is probably taken furthest by sound artist Sabisha Friedberg (South African). Inspired by an encounter with Cage as a young student, she has altered the actual surface of the vinyl to address the aspect of applied chance and aleatory listening. Sections of low frequencies and silences are punctuated with in-between spaces and a concentric groove, so that the stylus’s movement is not necessarily progressive or linear. As a result, the record sounds different every time you play it.

—David Platzker and Jenny Schlenzka

The record, There Will Never Be Silence, is organized by David Platzker, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Museum of Modern Art, and Jenny Schlenzka, Associate Curator, MoMA PS1.

Producer: Mike Skinner, Associate Producer: Rosey Selig-Addiss, Engineer: Lucas Gonzalez, Audio Mastering Engineer: Mike Skinner, Vinyl Mastering Engineer: Josh Bonati, Art Direction and Graphic Design: Floor5, Marek Polewski and Neven Cvijanovic, Print Production: Gallery Print and Durchdruck, Berlin, Germany.

The record, There Will Never Be Silence, is made possible by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation.

Special thanks to Kathy Halbreich and to Aaron Louis and MoMA Audio Visual.

Except as noted below, There Will Never Be Silence was recorded at MoMA Studios, New York, and mastered at Kenan’s Studio, Brooklyn. The vinyl was cut at Bonati Mastering NYC, Brooklyn, and manufactured at Brooklynphono, Brooklyn. Yasunao Tone’s MP3 Deviations #12 was recorded live at ISSUE Project Room, Brooklyn, as part of the Ten Years Alive on the Infinite Plain festival. Parts of Sabisha Friedberg’s A Concentric Crowned: Plain Hi-Roller were recorded at The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,Troy, New York. Field recordings included in Lizzi Bougatsos’s ENERGY CHANCE were recorded in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

© 2014 The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 


  • SIDE A
    Sabisha Friedberg
  • SIDE B
    Yasunao Tone
  • SIDE C
    Kevin Beasley
  • SIDE D
    Lizzi Bougatsos