Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Music's Silence

I am becoming addicted to Pintrest.  I can sit for hours and look at all the wonderful things other people have found on the Internet.  This image grabbed my attention and I was fascinated.  I know there is a popular song out there with this title, but that's not what came to mind.  Last summer, the pastor at my church suggested an experiment.  We were to sit in silence for a full sixty seconds.  No music, no one else talking, no reading the hymn book or bulletin, just listen to silence.  When the time had passed, the remainder of the conversation was about how uncomfortable that made us feel.  How many of us felt a strong urge to fill the silence with something "valuable." How panicked some of us felt for "wasting time."  We all smiled a bit painfully.  Are our lives ever really silent?  How many of us can't even fall asleep without some sound machine running?

As choralists, we catch ourselves rushing the rests.  So anxious to get to the next note.  I have to laugh at myself sometimes when I glance down at a instrumentalists' score and see, in some cases, measures upon measures of rests.  How do they do that?  Are you making music if you are counting rests for half a movement?  What about that big rest right before the last dramatic cord of a piece?  How hard is it to allow the director complete control of that happening, balancing ourselves between being ready to sing and not jumping in and having an unintended solo? 

For me, there is another side to music's silence. Several years ago, I re auditioned for a chorus I had sung with for years and was not invited to return. No reason, no real communication, just thank you and so long. I felt silenced. I lost my confidence and wondered if choral music would ever welcome my voice again. It was a feeling of abandonment and grief. I struggled to define myself without it. There was a period of silence for me. Happily, I did find my way again, a stronger and wise person for allowing the silence to heal me, refresh me, teach me. Silence once again gave way to the music.

So you try it.  That's right.  Just sit there for sixty seconds.  Don't talk, don't read, turn off whatever is making noise, and listen for silence.  Do you hear it?  Can you find the calm?  Is there music in it?  Enjoy the silence.  The music is all the sweeter for it.

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