Monday, August 22, 2005

Sting on Music, Mystery and Silence

“ . . .When you watch a musician play—when he enters that private musical world—you often see a child at play, innocent and curious, full of wonder at what can only be adequately described as a mystery—a sacred mystery, even. Something deep. Something strange. Both joyous and sad. Something impossible to explain in words. I mean, what could possibly keep us playing scales and arpeggios hour after hour, day after day, year after year? Is it some vague promise of glory, money, or fame? Or is it something deeper?

“. . .Songwriting is the only form of meditation that I know. And it is only in silence that the gifts of melody and metaphor are offered. To people in the modern world, true silence is something we rarely experience. It is almost as if we conspire to avoid it. Three minutes of silence seems like a very long time. It forces us to pay attention to ideas and emotions that we rarely make any time for. There are some people who find this awkward, or even frightening.

“Silence is disturbing. It is disturbing because it is the wavelength of the soul. If we leave no space in our music—and I’m as guilty as anyone else in this regard—then we rob the sound we make of a defining context. It is often music born from anxiety to create more anxiety. It’s as if we’re afraid of leaving space. Great music’s as much about the space between the notes as it is about the notes themselves. A bar’s rest is as important and significant as the bar of demi-, semi-quavers that precedes it. What I’m trying to say here is that if ever I’m asked if I’m religious, I always reply, ‘Yes, I’m a devout musician.’ Music puts me in touch with something beyond the intellect, something otherworldly, something sacred.”

Source: Bassett, Sam, and Sandra Bark (Eds.). Take This Advice: The Most Nakedly Honest Graduation Speeches Ever Given. New York: Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2005.

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