I'm making my first ever blog post (on a site devoted to the sounds I make, no less) about the absence of sound: silence.
Silence as the antithesis of sound. Silence as that which defines sound. Silence as stillness. Silence as potential. Silence as scary. Silence as relief.
I think about silence when I start to play, during the intake of breath that marks the beginning of a phrase, thinking about how the sound I make will emerge from silence, will break the silence, and means no turning back.
I think about silence when I stop playing, in the moment of a performance that I alone among all the warm bodies in a room get to experience: knowing with surety that the piece is over, feeling content with what I've just done, waiting for applause.
But I also think about silence when I realize (with wonder and heaviness) that it does not exist -- that I cannot escape an HVAC system, or birds during an outdoor concert, or coughing and shuffling papers in the audience, or my dog snorting with pleasure as he chases a toy around my apartment, or, most certainly, the river of thoughts that define my consciousness.
Music, remarkably, makes the very illusion of silence all the more real. In its sensual stimulation and in its demands on the listener's and player's attention, music makes it believable that, outside of the world it creates, there lies nothing. It even protects us from that void while it sounds. And when it stops, music makes its absence felt by making silence (and its attending relief, regret, emptiness, pregnant electricity, profundity, smallness) real.
"Confronting silence by uttering a sound is nothing but verifying one’s own existence."
-Tōru Takemitsu, Confronting Silence
"The music is not in the notes, but in the silence in between."
"Was it a dream I loved?"
-Stéphane Mallarmé, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
"Silence is what makes music sexy."
-Nicholas Payton, in a fantastic blog post