To Cage, silence had to be redefined if the concept was to remain viable. He recognized that there was no objective dichotomy between sound and silence, but only between the intent of hearing and that of diverting one's attention to sounds. "The essential meaning of silence is the giving up of intention," he said. This idea marks the most important turning point in his compositional philosophy. He redefined silence as simply the absence of intended sounds, or the turning off of our awareness. "Silence is not acoustic," he said, "It is a change of mind. A turning around."
The composer's responsibility shifts from self-expression to opening a window for the sounds of the environment. Cage was asked why it was necessary to create such music when it is already there? His answer indicates his didactic purpose: "Many people taking a walk would have their heads so full of preconceptions that it would be a long time before they were capable of hearing or seeing. Most people are blinded by themselves." Thus, the goal of the composer is revealed to be primarily that of the missionary. "Music is about changing the mind -- not to understand, but to be aware."