Wednesday pondering – on silence

I was reading about John Cage today and his famous piece, 4’33”. As you may know, that is a composition conceived in 1952, meant for any instrument (or combination of instruments), and the score instructs the performer(s) to not play the instrument(s) during the entire duration of the piece, which is meant to consist of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, although it is commonly perceived as “four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence”.
The reason why I was reading that is less important, the irony was that there was an awful amount of noise around me while I was plunging into Cage’s reasons to write a piece about silence. Now, precisely at the time when I was sort of praying for a miracle that would stop all that noise, my eyes fell on the fragment quoted below:
“In 1951, Cage visited the anechoic chamber at Harvard University. An anechoic chamber is a room designed in such a way that the walls, ceiling and floor absorb all sounds made in the room, rather than reflecting them as echoes. Such a chamber is also externally sound-proofed. Cage entered the chamber expecting to hear silence, but he wrote later, “I heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation.” Cage had gone to a place where he expected total silence, and yet heard sound. “Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music.” The realisation as he saw it of the impossibility of silence led to the composition of 4′33″.”
And lo! While I was reading that, the huge noise around me stopped, and I was able to hear the music of my neurons, chewing on the relative silence suddenly fallen upon my surroundings :). Quite a poetic coincidence, if I may add.
But coming back to the point, what people grew to call as “silence” is merely the absence of sounds. An absence otherwise relative, as demonstrated by the quote above – for our own body always plays its own music, above the absolute state of silence. Sometimes we like it, sometimes we don’t, simply because silence, like all things, is sometimes necessary, and other times it should be replaced by something else. There can be silence in the middle of the storm, as well as it can lack in the middle of some anechoic chamber. What matters most is not the physical silence that we experience, but the mental one, when the mind comes to that state of silence called peace – because that is when we actually “hear” our soul.


© Liliana Negoi

5 Responses to “Wednesday pondering – on silence”
  1. Sana Rose says:

    Insightful, Lili.. Hope you are doing well. 🙂

    • Sana! My dear, dear friend :). I’m so glad to see you around! Yes, I’m doing OK for now – with the family and the writing and all :). I hope you are doing well too!
      (((Hugging you)))

  2. Jamie Dedes says:

    A profound post, profoundly truthful. “…our own body always plays its own music” is a poem in itself.

    Liliana, I wonder if you allow me to post this on “Into the Bardo.”

    It would be an honor. If so, I would need a brief bio, a photograph of you and the cover of your book as well as a link to it. You can see how things are laid out on the site. Please let me know:

    Thank you, Liliana.

    Warmest regards,

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