balancing sound and silence

Photo by Ellicia on Unsplash

unpolished thoughts 12/29/2018

I’m listening to more music these days.

It used to define every single environment I was in. There was always music in my home, always music in my car, always music in my head.

At a certain moment of crisis, I wished I could turn off the music in my head. For the most part I found that I couldn’t, but I started to explore that possibility.

So I started to listen to more silence.

Silence doesn’t actually exist, so listening to it is an interesting process. You discover that music is everywhere.

Eventually I began to more deliberately explore the omnipresence of music in the silence of myself and my surroundings. I formalized it into a meditation exercised that I practiced on a regular basis.

With one hand on my throat, I would feel my heartbeat while I simultaneously listened to the slower rhythm of my breathing. In between the polyrhythms of my breath and my heart, I would listen for all the different sounds to be found in the world around me.

Sometimes for extra credit, I might use my free hand to rhythmically tap the air to create another invisible layer of felt pulse – or rhythmically cover and uncover one ear, or listen to my footsteps while walking around, or add the sound of my singing voice on every other exhale.

All these sounds – and the making of them and listening to them can happen simultaneously.

Whether or not it’s possible to hold them all simultaneously in one’s attention is another question.

But it’s not unlike what a jazz drummer has to do, so I know it’s not impossible.

But I don’t worry if I’ve “got it” or not.

I just do it and notice how, if I sink in, I start to notice more relationships between my internal biological rhythms and creative impulses, and the beats and accents of the music of the external world.

Anyways, right now I’m listening to music as I type, and it’s impossible not to relate the movement of my fingers over the keys to the sounds coming from my stereo speakers

Sound formalized as “music” – highly ordered, packaged, produced and sometimes nearly perfect – organizes my body in a different way than the naked environment.

Anyone who likes to dance knows what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the memo when I was a young person.

Let me explain what I really mean.

I did learn that allowing music to animate my body and letting go could set me free.

What I didn’t know was that going out and finding others who felt the same way could have given me the experience of creative community at a time when I really could have used it, a time where my creative impulses made me feel different, strange, wrong.

So instead, I danced for years behind closed doors, only partially releasing my creativity.

In any case, music became a constant companion and, at a certain point I realized, at times, an escape.

The thing is, if you play me a song and then put me in a quiet room alone, I might keep hearing that song for days. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced a song “stuck in your head” (I assume you have) – but for me it’s really quite a thing.

So I’ve developed something new in recent years, a kind of caution that makes me sometimes hesitate to play music because of the incredible momentum that I know it can create.

Do I want this momentum right now? Does it serve me? Do I have the focus to use it, shape it, mold it?

Or will it push me over the rails into some kind of reckless abandon where I might not be so attentive to my to-do list?

There is no formula here.

But I have noticed that I’m listening to music more often these days.

Maybe there’s a certain part of me that it sets in motion that I’d like to see more light of day.