Cage Against The Machine – Why Two Silent Singles Are Going Head To Head

There have been many things done in the name of charity which nothing else would have excused, but this silent single really takes the invisible biscuit.

Celebrity ‘contributors’ sit in silence and think about our lost servicemen. Among them are Thom Yorke, Bryan Ferry and Mark Ronson. Whether or not they actually record their silence in a studio is unclear.

It’s not that I’m against charity, or soldiers, or war, or anything (except war) but this feels like a 4am decision at the end of a 12-hour brainstorm about how to market Remembrance Day to kids in the digital age; an idea that came just above next best suggestion ‘the Poppy App’ – which probably exists, and cuts out the sound on all your calls for two minutes before you’re allowed to speak to anyone.

The problems are many. For a start, how will it be played on the radio? Radio abhors silence. Will club DJs play it? How do you dance to it? Can you put a donk on it? Will the Glee cast cover it? That would be a sweet relief actually.

As an advert or a film to encourage donations, this would be perfect, because as a video it’s quite moving. But a silent single? It’s just too abstract and mischievous for the solemnity of the subject.

Which is why, perversely, I’m all for this year’s ‘stick it to the man’ X Factor-blocking Christmas Number One contender 4’33”, a 1952 piece by American artist John Cage which consists of – you guessed it – absolutely bugger all. Nothing. Silence.

While it’s possible this track was only chosen for this year’s campaign because it meant the campaign could then be called Cage Against The Machine, it’s also brilliantly cheeky to imagine that whoever wins the X Factor, the majority of people would still rather listen to what’s going on between Katie Waissel’s ears than what might be coming out of her mouth.

Hopefully there won’t be a messy lawsuit over the rights to silence (the two songs do sound suspiciously similar) and we can look forward to a whole new silent genre, inspiring static dancing, and clothing that isn’t really there.