Saturday, April 10, 2010

Soliloquy, Part 1

I don't like silence. I don't know why. There's something unnerving about a lack of aural stimulation. As I sit writing this, I can hear the buzz of the fluoro tube above my head, the rumble of a distant tram passing, a lone dog's bark, and the sound of my fingers punching at the keys. Even in this stillest of scenes there is sound.

I've often wondered why I find silence so distasteful. What does the lack of sound signify that makes me want to fill it with something, anything?

Maybe reversing the question will make it easier to answer. Why do I like noise, sound, music? Many reasons: the Beauty of rhythm. The aural masterpieces painted by timbre, melody, harmony, and even just plain noise. I like seeing order in seeming chaos: extracting a rhythm from sound waves, fluid progress of chords, patterns of intervals. Even in the absence of music, there is wonder to be experienced. When I walk through the city, I love to detune my ears, and let the spacial aspect of sound thrill me; the uncomposed masterpiece of audio engineering that is my immediate surroundings. I find some affinity with the avant-garde composer John Cage, who finds sound fascinating:

Cage claims to love silence. It's not real silence, though; for him, traffic noise counts as silence.
Indeed, Cage's most well-known work, 4'33", is not completely silent. The audience is encouraged to discover music in the sounds of their environment, rather than in the ordered structure of a musical score. No two "performmances" are alike, as each carries the unique tones and murmurings of the moments it occupies.

The Tremeloes might have thought that silence was golden, but I find it stark. What's your reaction to silence? I think I have more to say, but it hasn't crystallized in my head yet – you'll just have to sit quietly and wait…

Photo: Bixentro on flickr

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