Silence is one of the most important elements in music, but it’s often underused or overlooked. Without silence (or rests), everything would be no bueno, a clusterf*** with no end in sight. It would drive us all insane, and that’s not good for anyone, right? The paradox, the yin-yang, is that you cannot have sound without silence or silence without sound. And yet, sounds still exist within ‘silence’.
Can we call silence music? Music is described as being ‘organized sound’, but isn’t Music more than that, wider than that? Art shouldn’t be restricted – or caged – by a single definition, or cordoned off thanks to one subjective opinion.
Now That’s What I Call Silence is not actually completely silent, nor is it an homage to John Cage and his famous piece, “4’33”“. It’s more like Blank Tapes by Reynols (2000) in that it’s an invitation towards experimentation and engaging minimalism.
Not every track on this compilation is devoid of music. Sound levels drop. An all-engulfing void creates a massive amount of space; silence grows and grows. Quiet guitars are drifting, drooping in ever-lower levels of volume, and others stab at the ears with a harsh, penetrating noise in what is the very antithesis of silence. Near-silence is amplified, ‘blank’ recordings, if there is such a thing, are boosted to include hiss and other sounds in the air, all of which emanate from the birth of the Universe. We are all made of stars. Air holds the sound of the Universe, even if we can’t pick up on its frequencies. Our ears take in a limited range of sounds, after all.
Some of these were also rejected from Spotify for being “too silent”, which is a great achievement in itself. In a strange paradox, perhaps the closest description or genre would be ‘noise’. X-Bax, Small Life Form, High Tunnels, Ben Link Collins, Toni Dimitrov, Charles De Mar, Electric Bird Noise, Can Can Heads, Bodies That Matter, Subscape Annex, Heavy for the Vintage, Remora, Baptizer, Premature Burial, Goddakk, LoveyDove, and Konbanwa all contribute sounds: a stable rumbling, some outside noise, interference, industrial ambient sounds in the local atmosphere, and even ‘nap time’, which is as quiet as a daylit cradle…or the grave. Are they organized sounds? Does it even matter? Seems like some of the most powerful music on Earth is the quietest. (James Catchpole)
‘The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.’ – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart