STUMM433 may not be for everyone, but it's one of the most creative, unique and elaborate music concept projects I've encountered. First a few bits of background are necessary. 4'33" is the name of the 1952 composition of American composer and music theorist John Cage. The movement was composed for any instrument or combination of instruments, and its score instructs the performers not to play their instruments for the duration of the piece (generally four minutes thirty-three seconds). Alas, the listener hears the sounds of the environment as the movement is performed.
"Wherever we are, what we hear is mostly noise" – John Cage
Many consider 4'33" to be one of most important contemporary music compositions of all time - one that completely changed popular thinking on silence, sound, composition and listening. One individual in that thought camp is Daniel Miller, founder of independent UK record label Mute Records. Established in 1978, the iconic label has graced ears and minds across the planet with pioneering and groundbreaking musical acts that include Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure, Nitzer Ebb, Moby, Nick Cave, Cabaret Voltaire and Goldfrapp, to name just a few.
In Daniel Miller's own words, "John Cage's 4'33" has been present in my musical life for as long as I can remember as an important and inspiring composition." During a conversation with composer and musician Simon Fisher Turner, the idea of having every Mute artist (past, present and future) doing their own interpretation of the piece came up in discussion. Daniel was on board with the idea noting, "I immediately thought this was the perfect way to mark the label’s MUTE 4.0 (1978 > TOMORROW) series."
STUMM433 features unique interpretations of 4'33" from 58 artists, and is released over five pieces of vinyl and CD. The vinyl box set is particularly stunning - a work of art on its own, limited to 433 numbered copies, each signed by Mute Records' Daniel Miller. Contents of the vinyl box set include:
5 x 180-gram heavyweight clear vinyl
Vinyl sleeved with white foil blocking outers
36-page 12"-sized soft touch lamination booklet
Black tin candles with the scent of silence
Certificate of authenticity, numbered and signed by Daniel Miller
Packaged in a unique frosted opal PVC case with 3mm walls
Net profits from the sales of the STUMM433 box set are split between the British Tinnitus Association and Music Minds Matter, charities chosen to honor Inspiral Carpets' founding member Craig Gill who suffered from anxiety and depression as a result of his tinnitus in the years up to his untimely death.
The full roster of the 58 artists who have contributed their 4'33" interpretation to STUMM433 includes:
A Certain Ratio, A.C. Marias, ADULT., The Afghan Whigs, Alexander Balanescu, Barry Adamson, Ben Frost, Bruce Gilbert, Cabaret Voltaire, Carter Tutti Void, Chris Carter, Chris Liebing, Cold Specks, Daniel Blumberg, Danny Briottet, Depeche Mode, Duet Emmo, Echoboy, Einstürzende Neubauten, Erasure, Fad Gadget, Goldfrapp, He Said, Irmin Schmidt, Josh T. Pearson, K Á R Y Y N, Komputer, Laibach, Land Observations, Lee Ranaldo, Liars, Looper, Lost Under Heaven, Maps, Mark Stewart / Sonskrif / The New Banalist Orchestra, Michael Gira, Mick Harvey, Miranda Sex Garden, Moby, Modey Lemon, Mountaineers, New Order, Nitzer Ebb, NON / Boyd Rice, Nonpareils, The Normal, onDeadWaves, Phew, Pink Grease, Pole, Polly Scattergood, Richard Hawley, ShadowParty, Silicon Teens, Simon Fisher Turner and Edmund de Waal, The Warlocks, Wire, Yann Tiersen and Gareth Jones.
For those still wondering, the title of the project (STUMM433) is nothing more than a Mute Records catalogue number reserved in advance of the project's release. A little history here... Generally, all full-length albums from Mute Records (with a few exceptions) are denoted by STUMM (the German word for "Mute") and a sequential number. Back in 1980, D.A.F.'s Die Kleinen und die Bösen (the label's first full-length album) was assigned catalogue number STUMM 1. Therefore STUMM433 is the 433rd album release in the Mute Records catalogue.
So, there you have it! If you're looking for a bit of serenity and 'silence', put on your headphones and take a dive into STUMM433 on digital platforms (e.g., Spotify) or purchase the physical CD or vinyl box set directly from Mute Bank.
Enjoy the silence!