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The Opposing Forces of Music and Silence

By Judy Nemer Sklar

It was a quaint little restaurant on a balmy desert night – just the two of them, she a writer, he a musician, together conversing in a syncopated rhythm of their own making. Their wine glasses clink and he proposes a toast, “hip-hip, chin-chin.”  They laugh at the funny Italian cheer and are reminded that it is the title of a song they once heard – a perfect toast on a perfect night.

Chin-chin, according to the Urban Dictionary, means a beat or a rhythm and this couple agrees that its beats and pauses hold their creative hearts together.  It is the music that will in time become the patterns and progressions of their art, their love, their lives.

Fundamentally, music is the combination of musical sounds and vibrations.  It is the rhythms, melodies, harmonies and colors that facilitate an emotional experience.  Nietzsche proclaimed, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Music feeds the soul, playing an important role in our lives and our ability to communicate.  It instills within us the pleasure and the pain of the human spirit. Whether rock, electronic, classical or folk, all music expresses ideas and emotions that can inspire, give hope and allow us to escape for a moment.  It can improve the part of the brain that is involved in language and reasoning, and it can increase creativity, imagination and empathy towards others.

There is an opposing force to the sounds and vibrations that make up music.  According to the writer Aldous Huxley, “Silence is an integral part of music.” While his statement may sound contradictory, composers and musicians understand the dichotomy of music and silence.  While musical scores are made up of many notes and sounds, they also are made up of empty bars and rests which become part of the composition.  A skillful composer will use the rest note as an essential part of music and as an effective way to influence the mood of the listener.

As we move through our own rhythms of life, we too might think about our rest notes or spaces for silence. Taking time to rest makes for better decisions, less irritability and a better disposition.  As an artist, I know that silence is a gift.  When I take the time to quiet my mind and pause in silence, I know that I am in a healing place; a place where creativity and inspiration will spark.  As in a musical score, silence can make for a more centered life.

In the morning before we roll out our mats, there is silence.  In the afternoon when we chant in melodic tones, “Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti” we find silence.  In the evening long after the gong has rung, there is silence. 

The power of music can touch our hearts and transcend the material universe.  Likewise, if we sit in silence and listen, we surprisingly find that life becomes equally vibrant.  We may discover that we are not separate from the world; rather, we are more connected.

Judy Nemer Sklar of Palm Desert is an artist, writer and educator who conducts workshops entitled Embracing a Creative Life.  She can be reached at judy@judynemersklar.com or (760) 902.5467. www.judynemersklar.com.

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