Journey into Silence

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Journey into Silence for B-flat Clarinet is a silent piece for performers and audiences that do not generally spend time in silence.  Silence has become a source of discomfort for musicians and their audiences alike.  This piece aims to bring both parties on a journey into silence and experience that music is truly made between the notes. Of course an initial inspiration for this work was John Cage’s 4’33”.  This piece was groundbreaking in that it confronted the audience with complete silence and made strides in our acceptance of silence as a legitimate performance art.  I wanted to create a piece that treats silence with the same respect- but also eases the performer into creating silence and the audience into experiencing silence.  Many performers are focused always on sound and never on silence, and performing something like 4’33” would be unbearable to them and beyond their capacity.  This piece aims to take the performer and audience on a journey to acknowledging, accepting, and embracing silence. I also attempt in this work to create an experience in which the audience and performers hear the music “between the notes.”

I was particularly inspired by The Other Boulez” by Michael Schumaker, which thrives on this idea.  Rather than focusing on the notes of Boulez’s compositions, this piece is made only from the sections in between the notes. The intrinsic role of the notes becomes lesser and their role as outlines of the silence becomes greater.  I aim to create this transition of the role of the musical note in my piece – so that both the performer and the audience start listening to the silence rather than waiting for another note to sound.

One last effect I hope to create with this piece is the idea of a “remembered sound event,” as described by David Dunn in Purposeful Listening in Complex States of Time.  The piece aims to create remembered events by repeating the same simple melodic lines throughout the entire piece and letting them fade into the silence.  My hope is that the performer and the audience remember the melodic sounds as they fade into the surrounding space.

Journey into Silence begins with a simple melodic theme separated by small spaces.  Each of the following four variations takes the melodic theme and emphasizes the silence further and further, until the final movement – which includes no playing but only imagined sound.  The performer and audience are both taken on a meditative journey into silence and in the end find that music is truly the space between the notes.


2 thoughts on “Journey into Silence

  1. Hi Allyson,

    As we discussed in class, there were some really effective silences in your work. I particularly loved the trajectory to the last silent movement, and the way in which you engaged your breath even in the last movement–the inhalations kept the musical tension in place and kept the audience’s attention as we waited to see what was next…

    Nice work!

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