Composer John Cage on silence

~ thanks for this, Pamela Robertson-Pearce by way of Rhys Chatham
    • Merrill Ann Gonzales
    • August 28th, 2010

    It’s vrtually impossible to listen to true silence… I find I have to pull away from sound every once in awhile … yet it’s always there.

    • It’s so refreshing for me to hear Cage delight in Duchamp’s “sound sculpture”, which I take to be a kind of gestalt that forms, that exists wholly in the moment when we hear, free of a need for what we hear to mean anything at all. Sound for its own sake. And us responding to that. For me, that’s listening to silence, i.e. silence is sound free of meaning, existing purely of itself. What do you think of this, Merrill? -Donna

    • Merrill Ann Gonzales
    • August 29th, 2010

    Oh, I understand the concepts John Cage articulates so well…but I was reflecting on the other situation of the absence of sound… Years ago I had heard some interesting things about sound and the inability to find absolute sound. Also the way sound, such as the traffic sounds drown out many other sounds in our lives too. Where I live (between three major highways) it’s difficult to hear the cicadas/cricket/frogs sometimes – the traffic sounds become so loud… So sound has many forms and like anything one person’s enjoyment might not meet another’s needs. It’s a very interesting subject, I agree.

    • oh, yes, I also hear those layers of sounds you speak of Merrill. If I stay in my yard long enough throughout an afternoon I will hear each layer reveal itself after another layer has dissipated. a nearby highway is a constant source of what I call noise because it’s purely man-made and not of this natural world and is an overlay like a template that pretty much defines everything else. The “quality” and all-consuming noise it produces changes depending on weather conditions, time of day and night — in winter the snow muffles engine noise & tires on macadam. Sunday evenings all year ’round are the quietest times. Sometimes in late mornings that noise fades and the birds and sounds of wind, children come forward. For some the highway is merely white noise but it irritates me after a while because it is always the same tedium, without change. One outstanding period of quiet I will never forget was a Northeast blackout in the 90s and I wrote this with amazement & awe:

      heat wave blackout the cool quiet the night

      Thanks for writing, Merrill. Always welcome and stimulating! -Donna

    • Merrill Ann Gonzales
    • August 29th, 2010

    Typo: That should read “inability to find absolute soundlessness” Sorry.

  1. oh, yes, I also hear those layers of sounds you speak of Merrill. If I stay in my yard long enough throughout an afternoon I will hear each layer reveal itself after another layer has dissipated. a nearby highway is a constant source of what I call noise because it’s purely man-made and not of this natural world and is an overlay like a template that pretty much defines everything else. The “quality” and all-consuming noise it produces changes depending on weather conditions, time of day and night — in winter the snow muffles engine noise & tires on macadam. Sunday evenings all year ’round are the quietest times. Sometimes in late mornings that noise fades and the birds and sounds of wind, children come forward. For some the highway is merely white noise but it irritates me after a while because it is always the same tedium, without change. One outstanding period of quiet I will never forget was a Northeast blackout in the 90s and I wrote this with amazement & awe:

    heat wave blackout
    the cool quiet
    the night

    Thanks for writing, Merrill. Always welcome and stimulating! -Donna

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: