John Cage Silence Plagiarism Case Settled

By | September 24, 2002 at 12:00 AM

A copyright dispute over two pieces of silence, one by American avant-garde composer John Cage and the other by a composer best known for novelty tunes, has been settled, Cage’s publishers said Monday.

Mike Batt was accused of plagiarism by Edition Peters, publishers of the late Cage’s work, after he put a track called “A Minute’s Silence” on his latest album “Classical Graffiti,” performed by pop-classics group The Planets. The piece was credited it to Batt/Cage.

Cage’s ground-breaking silent composition, 4’33,” was first performed half a century ago. The piano piece, divided into three movements, consists entirely of silent notes and takes four minutes 33 seconds to perform.

Nicholas Riddle, managing director of Peters, told Reuters Batt had paid an “adequate sum” to the John Cage Trust by way of settlement.

“It’s been very gentlemanly. We haven’t called each other names or anything like that,” Riddle said.

“Of course he was a very humorful person and I think he would have seen the funny side of what Batt was doing,” Riddle said of Cage, who once famously said: “I have nothing to say and I’m saying it.”

“The struggle was one of the most amusing disputes I’ve ever, er, disputed,” Batt said on his Web Site (

“I’m sure John Cage had a dry sense of humor, and would have loved the spectacle of The Planets being all over the press protesting that their (my) silence was original silence and not a quotation from his silence,” he added.

Earlier this year, the parties attempted to prove their points by each staging a performance of their piece. The result was inconclusive.

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