Friday, December 12, 2014

The Death of Silence

I am thinking of having business cards printed up to carry to concerts. I am thinking they should say, "Please don't talk during the concert. I love music and I want to hear every note." Or perhaps, "I am scouting talent for the Juilliard School. Please refrain from talking so I can give the performers a fair hearing."

What do you think?

So many people seem to think that all music is "background music." To them, being at a concert is no different than talking during during the half-time show at the football game. Music plays in restaurants, in elevators, at the dentist's office, while you wait, "on hold", for your telephone call to go through.

Music is just treated as some sort of comforting white noise that keeps you from being alone with your thoughts. In those cases it seems as though someone has just left the taps running and forgotten to turn them off. There is no significance to the sounds we are hearing. It's "just music". What's the big deal?

How often do we practice meaningful silence these days? Our children may be practicing a sort of fearful silence during the many lockdown drills that are a part of their lives. High school students must be completely silent during SAT and AP exams or risk nullifying the results. But what about meaningful silence for the purpose of genuine listening?

It is hard to get that even at the movie theater these days. Actually, I find some people are challenged to do this even at church.

Children used to have a variety of listening experiences all through their school years, including (but not limited to) musical ones. The shift in our curriculum to serve the big bad God of standardized testing has all but eliminated the cultivation of attentive listening. "Listen for directions", "Listen to the test example", "Listen to the Principal tell you to do your best on your test." Not the same.

Meaningful, attentive listening brings gifts to the listener. It brings value. It allows the participant to connect with the sound and reflect on it. It is an experience of total immersion, like a glorious bubble bath, or the most delicious of meals. We receive, connect, synthesize, benefit.

If we chat during a performance, we not only disturb our neighbors, we lose something for ourselves. Music performance is at its best with a good audience. It should be a collaboration where both sides benefit. After the concert we can share with others, having truly met with the music on its own terms and given it our all.

"Music is the silence between the notes."

--Claude Debussy

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music."

--Aldous Huxley

"A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence."

--Leopold Stokowski





No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.