Graphic Homage: John Cage Meets Offset Printing in Project by Nicholas Blechman and Friends

In 1948, John Cage paid a visit to the anechoic chamber at Harvard University, an echo-free room that had recently been built for the purpose of physics research. Surrounded by foot-thick concrete walls that bristled with sound-absorbing wedges, he had an epiphany: “I heard that silence was not the absence of sound but was the unintended operation of my nervous system and the circulation of my blood,” wrote Cage. He credited that experience, along with the white paintings of his Black Mountain College chum Robert Rauschenberg, with leading him to compose 4’33”. The composition, divided into three sections, consists of four minutes and thirty-three seconds in which the performer plays nothing. On the occasion of Cage’s 100th birthday, his most famous work gets a graphic design twist from Nicholas Blechman (art director of The New York Times Book Review), Irene Bacchi, and Leonardo Sonnoli. The trio created “Heidelberg Speedmaster” (below), an offset print interpretation of 4’33” and named for the industrial printing machine at work in the video, recorded last Friday at La Pieve Poligrafica in Rimini, Italy. Each of the composition’s three parts are also interpreted in posters designed by Blechman, Bacchi, and Sonnoli (two of the posters are pictured above). And now, your moment(s) of Zen: