The most profound gimmick in the history of music was composed by John Cage. He initially performed his piece called 4’33” around 1952, at which time it was not well received. Since then, it has gained considerable respect as an important performance piece.
Footage of John Cage appears several times throughout the documentary “In Pursuit of Silence.” It includes excerpts of Cage by himself at the piano, also a whole orchestra playing his 4 minute, 33 second masterpiece. During that titular amount of time, no one plays any instrument of music. Still silence affords ambient rustlings along with the challenge of paying attention to both.
“In Pursuit of Silence” challenges you to listen to the considerable amount of silence presented throughout the film, informed by sounds ranging from ambient rustlings to modern cacophonies. It is enhanced by its visuals. (One might wonder what could have been kept the same or what would need to be done differently if it were 81 minutes of blank screen and only the soundtrack.)
Intermixed throughout are people who know quite a bit about silence as well as sound and noise. The talking is instructive, wise, mostly calming, and in tune. A quote from the film: “Modern people don’t feel moved or impressed by just living. One needs silence to do so.” Calling upon our prehistoric context of relative quiet and our modern context of sensory overload, “In Pursuit of Silence” wags a refreshing tale of issue awareness distinct from swipes at seemingly more pressing issues.