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Polyvalent Silence

Perhaps the question was not well-formeg -- "silence" and "music" here both being "psycholinguistic bombs"; the "That's glory for you" of Humpty-Dumpty fame. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humpty_Dumpty

"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,'" Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't – till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"

"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument,'" Alice objected.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less."

To frame my response, I proposed my context. That's glory for you. As a former performer, I was very lazy and did not want to play more than half the time, so I played tuba in a Bavarian OOooomm-pa band. [My favorite orchestral piece was Das Lied von der Erde, where the tuba plays for six measures. It seems Mahler forgot that he wasn't using tuba and added it to one page of the score, doubling the bass. That's about $50 per note.] In a recent 7.1 channel composition, one channel has no sound for about three minutes; it remains silent (but don't tell the other six channels which play almost continuously.

In my first response I framed the issue in terms of segmentation, which has underlying issues of time -- a term as yet to be defined. The ability to measure time, in seconds, can be learned; for me, somehow an internal clock counts relatively independently of the external event stream. With music(s), Afghani raga to Inuit throat- singing (almost) to Gruppen, my 'clock' keeps ticking and I'm usually very close to the elapsed time in my estimate. In these circumstances, I tend to hear silences as "empty vessels", with longitudinal properties, width, but no fixed vertical property. They are black. To pass time in a boring meeting, I look around and "see" an empty black container and experience 'silence', despite the noise.

My position returns to that of being -- reality is perceptual. The perception may be real or imaginary, and is unique to each individual. This has a way of complicating communications.

Best wishes on the path


Date:    Sun, 5 Jul 2009 11:14:13 -0700
From:    christopher jette <christopherjette@xxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Re: About silence and breath

Greetings All,
I have enjoyed this thread of discussion and while I may not be adding a
great deal of substance to the discussion, I would like to make an
observation. Kevin begins his response by qualifying his perspective as that of a composer, previously another responder elucidated the role of rests in demarcating phrases in traditional forms. This made me take a step back and
say "what is the role of silence in music? depends on what you mean by
music." This has obviously changed as music has changed and I can easily imagine a responder qualifying their remarks by asserting that they write music which is of X persuasion. This is all my way of saying that silence, rests, breaks, segmentation or what have you are part of a vernacular not a language. If this conversation were to poll millions of people across the world, the perspectives on what is meant by music and by silence.... that
might be interesting and certainly there would be some common camps.

It seems to me that the first step in modeling silence is to define in what context. In classical forms, indeed one must consider the phrase and the manner in which it commonly (even statistically) functioned. To this end I might point out the work of the composer Clarence Barlow in his program Autobusk and in the interest of disclosure he is also one of my teachers.


On Sun, Jul 5, 2009 at 10:30 AM, Kevin Austin <kevin.austin@xxxxxxxxxxxx >wrote:

Responding as a composer, not a scientist, in this context I have used the
word "segmentation" to mean to determine where something 'begins' and
'ends', possibly a very low level (fundamental) process, and this (in my use) is perceptual. Segmentation therefor occurs at many levels, largely dependent upon the perceptual / cognitive processes of the individual.