Music as an art of silence

We live in a world where we’re forever surrounded by music. We walk around, donning our headphones, stomping to the sound of music. Music greets us at shopping malls, grocery stores, cafes, everywhere. Music permeates us, leaving us sometimes oblivious to the musical sounds we hear. We’ve developed a skill of switching ourselves off from music. Music is not only loud noise, a deafening thump-thump-thump. Music is also silence. What is it that makes music an art of silence? What do I hear as music in the silence?

The philosophic meaning of silence was introduced to music by composer John Cage. In 1952 he created a piece entitled 4’33. The piece consists of four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence.

As you see in the video, the audience gets bored. Bored because we’re surrounded by so much noise and music to keep our brains active. The contemporary human being uses the computer, simultaneously viewing a Youtube site, various media portals, social media sites, while in another room the TV is on, the radio’s playing. Our attention is scattered across a hundred different things. That is why we feel bored when it’s quiet, when our attention is not dispersive, and is rather directly focused on silence. On silence wherein changes may be extreme and easily perceived, yet at the same time prolonged or overly quick. The very event of us becoming bored is what renders music an art of silence. That boredom makes us think, and look for interesting aspects of this musical quiet, of music as an art of silence. The innate trait of the human disposition – to find something fascinating in everything – makes music an art of silence.

I listen to a lot of music on a daily basis. I listen to different genres in different languages. Even if I don’t understand the lyrics, the music of the piece must carry the emotion that is verbalized in the lyrics. What I hear as music in silence is to a large degree an attempt at making sense of it all. The more I think about it, the more I understand that what resonates as music in the silence for me is the entirety of that which creeps up on me through music. I am not talking about absolute silence as such silence is impossible. There is silence in music. Those one-beat pauses make music enjoyable, right when the pause happens. They separate the melody from the harmony with a trice of quiet. Text has been reduced: that’s the moment that you hear this jiff of silence that serves a passage of immersion in the quiet. That’s an instant in which you delve into the parts yet to come: what will happen next? How will the musicians develop the piece from here? This tick of quiet is the music of silence that I perceive as music, that I perceive as silence.