One time at the annual Jackson’s Point Band Camp, one of the guest conductors would tell us to be silent, so we could listen in on the others in the band and listen in on life in general. “Silence is a beautiful sound”, they said. If you want to do well in performances, you must learn to understand the beauty of silence.
At the Ontario Band Association Festival, one of our pieces this year was “Solas Ane”, a very gentle piece that required perfect silence before we start. For the moment right before it began, the silence we practiced was useful. We were so perfectly silent that we could hear the breeze come in from the opened doors, and the shifting of papers and clothing in the audience. We were practicing silence.
Silence is a truly beautiful thing. I was watching a documentary a while back that said the “white noise” we may think is meaningless can negatively affect the development of babies as they are conditioned to think that this “white noise” means something. White noise can be comforting as get older – the gentle sounds of the A/C running in the background, the fans cooling us down, and the droned out sounds of the TV or radio that my parents are listening to all make me feel like I am with people; that I am in the right place. I am surrounded by something rather than nothingness. These little sounds and how we react to them may represent who we are when someone is looking, but the way complete silence affects us is representative of who we really are.
True silence is almost impossible to find nowadays. I guess that’s why we as humans are afraid or fascinated by it. To experience true silence you have to be 1. Alone, 2. Somewhere completely quiet with no A/C sounds or breeze or animals and 3. Willing to stay perfectly still. The ability to have all of these 3 things aligned at once is a rare thing, like waiting for the stars to perfectly align. Now, the closest thing we get on a regular basis is putting in your earphones and sitting alone in a café – that’s today’s silence.
Today’s silence is a great thing. It helps you concentrate, get yourself into a new mood, and even create a whole new little reality within your own jam session. Yes, who doesn’t want that?
Real silence gets you to concentrate on the silence itself. It can be frightening, and makes you realize that in that moment, you are truly alone. Frightening? Yes. Calming? Yes. A weird mixture of both? Definitely. Maybe silence just affects me this way, or maybe you are just not experiencing real silence.
I only ever really experience silence a few times…
In nature – Sometimes I find myself walking alone on a certain path or certain place that seems to be completely silent like a forest or park. This type of silence is relaxing. It reminds us that we don’t have to always be surrounded by stressors; it’s okay to be alone.
In the water – Sometimes, when I go swimming, I put my head in the pool and it feels like I’m alone. There may be others around me, but when I close my eyes (to not get chlorine pool water in my eyes) and not move an inch, I feel like I’m in silence. I may be surrounded by people like my campers I’m looking after, but for those brief seconds I’m in the water, I feel calm. I feel collected. I feel like I can conquer the world as I forget the problems in the world within the silence.
In the hospital – Sometimes, I find myself in complete silence in the hospital. Either at night when I was in the ICU and the nurse has just gone on break and I wake up. Maybe the silence wakes me up because it has become so darn loud. It pierces my ears hearing that silence; knowing that I am alone in the hospital, or anywhere else. Another place where I feel this dreaded silence is right before a MRI when they give you earplugs. The moments after the door slams behind the technician’s back and you are completely still in the machine with a metal cage around your head and earplugs in your ears, those few moments before the technician tells you you’re about to begin are the worse. Sometimes, I can’t handle this silence and rustle my feet. Those moments of silence are not calming. They don’t make me feel empowered, that make me feel little. They make me feel powerless.
You can also be brought into silence by others.
It was silent when I found out about my grandmother’s cancer.
It was silent when I found out about my grandfather’s cancer and his passing.
It was silent when I found out about my own tumour.
It was silent when I was browsing social media and found out about other people’s cancer and their bravery in coping with it as well.
I guess it depends on the context of the silence. When it’s a beautiful background, silence makes me relaxed. It makes me almost excited. It’s the few moments in time where I forget about the world and can truly “do me”. It is a nice contrast to the busy and in a way “loud” life I live. But when it’s a dark background or depressing situation, silence represents my fears. It takes away my power. It’s the hollowness within me.
Silence is beautiful. Silence can represent so many emotions because it is reflective of your own emotions. Silence is who you are, and since everyone is beautiful, silence is beautiful as well.