Lecture on Nothing

Wilkins, Margaret Lucy

About the work

This is a setting of the ‘Fourth Largest Part’ of the Lecture on Nothing by John Cage (published in Silence), for seven speaking voices – four men and three women. The typographical presentation of the text in Silence immediately suggested to the composer the possibilities of reading it in ways other than just from left to right. Thus the performers are instructed to read their parts sometimes straight down the columns, or from bottom to top, or from right to left, or starting in the middle of the text. The spoken words are treated as if they were musical notes.

Technical notes

The text is set in the order in which it appears in the original, i.e. two alternating sections repeated seven times, making fourteen sections in all, plus two silent sections at the end. The even-numbered sections are treated as a tutti with one voice left out at each repetition, ending with a whispered unison at section 14. The odd-numbered sections are treated in various ways, starting with four voices and adding one at each repetition until a seven-voiced canon is reached at section 7. Thereafter, one voice is taken away at each repetition and the treatment is inverted, so that section 9 is 5 backwards; 11 is 3 backwards; and 13 is 1 backwards.


score & parts

Sorry, Not Available




Voices Only


7 speaking voices and conductor


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