The most important part of music is becoming lost. Have you noticed? are you noticing that the quality of music, and of the listening experience in general, is slowly but surely becoming degraded? There seems to be a kind of mechanized quality happening, and much of the music out there seems to be more and more a kind of phenomenon of the surface, rather than of the depth. We go through the motions and the e-motions, but still, we aren’t satisfied. We have access to more and more music, all of it, really, but sometimes it feels like a wasteland. And the quality of the audio has declined, with the “smart”phones, mp3s and computer speakers. And the attention spans of 5 seconds as we surf through endless impressions. And then there’s this trend of looking back into the past, and doing “tributes” and so on, to the music of the past. Where is the music of the Now?? what happened?
To be sure, some courageous and dedicated souls are keeping real music alive, but there is a tidal wave of generic “anonymusic” washing over the airwaves. It has all been commercialized, made to sell some product or another, or at the very least, some musician’s ego. We all market ourselves, trying to catch the attention of the masses, which is becoming more and more fleeting as “hits” rise and fall in a matter of days or hours.
What is the most important part of music, that has gone missing?
Where is it? How does it work?
Consider composition to be like painting. It is con-position. Placing objects together in space. What makes a good painting has a lot to do with how the objects are placed relative to each other and to the space in which they are placed. So in music we also place objects, tones, in space. But what is the space in music in which the tones arise? It is silence. Silence is the musician’s equivalent of the painter’s canvas.
But it is not generic, this silence. It is YOUR silence. When you, as a musician, are able to truly embody the silence, then your music will take on a form and depth that it lacks without silence embedded in it. This doesn’t mean that there is any limit on the number of notes you can play, or the “style” of music, or anything. But the silence is your canvas. You have to be-hold it, i.e., to hold it by being it, as you participate in the process of music.
When the practice of music is engaged in this manner, one can enjoy the process of music from the very beginning. When one learns the art of playing one note, creating a tone that is alive, pulsing, and breathing, then the process of music has already begun and been completed simultaneously. The enjoyment can begin from the very start of the process of learning. And that will be what supports you to continue with all the aspects that are required to learn and to master the language, science and art of music.
So how does one embody the silence? And this is not just a dead silence, an empty void. This is the silence of infinite living potential and possibility, out of which all creativity arises spontaneously. Well, one has to practice the silence, even as one practices the sound. One has to practice being still. Not by forcing stillness, however, because that is where it becomes dead. One has to free the attention from all binding forms of attachment to the hologram of “3D reality”, and release attention into its source, which is Pure Consciousness itself. The bliss of existence without limits. Simply live as Source.
That may sound easy, like, well, “silence, that’s nothing, i’ve got that handled, let’s get back to the sound part”. But wait….. Can you be absolutely still, at rest and at peace, even for one minute? Try it. In fact, the silence part turns out to be every bit as challenging to master as the music part, if not more challenging. But it is literally essential to the art of music. Silence is the essence of music.
Your body-mind complex is like a transmitter. You are constantly broadcasting yourself to the world. And music is like a carrier wave, or a language, which carries your vibrational signature to others. It never lies. So when you choose to broadcast your infinite being as the carrier wave for your music, whatever the form, it will naturally be healing and enlivening for the listener. Also it will be classic. It will sound fresh every time you listen, it won’t age with time, because it is eternal. This is the secret of the great masters, whose work stands the test of time. Somehow, whether by accident, or intentionally, they were able to tap into eternity, at least while they were in the process of making the music.
A problem arises when we think that the creative process of music brings us to that eternal place, however. It can sometimes, because that is the way eternity entices us into a love affair with her. But ultimately it works the best the other way around, when the silence is something we inhabit intimately, at all times. Then we have a reliable connection to the inspiration, to our own infinite genius. It is not dependent on any outside source. We don’t have to hold the expectation that music has to bring us somewhere sublime, because it is where we live already. Then it is freely available whenever we play, as well as at times we aren’t playing.
Another interesting thing for musicians to practice is NOT playing (especially those who are addicted to practicing). Can you not play for a week? how about a month? or a year? what is your limit? Experiment with practicing your existence, practicing yourself as an instrument. Everything is resonance, vibration. Your very being is music. The silence IS the music. Allow your attention to dissolve there, and once stabilized there, then engage your music, slowly, remaining present. Practice music-making as a meditation, and the quality of it will change. You will notice all of the most satisfying things about music coming to the foreground, and the frustrating parts receding and disappearing. This is the alchemy of music in action.
Kit Walker ©2014
stay tuned for further explorations of these topics…!