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Silences

August 23, 2016

 

The silences are just as important as the notes.  A saying I heard many years ago, and is something I repeat often when I teach music, particularly high school band class.   When you're in a room of 30 teenagers, silence is hard to achieve.  Now imagine giving them all instruments that they, usually, don't know how to play.  Frankly, it's a bit of a nightmare.  I've had more than one occasion of me yelling for their attention, hands raised, concerned look on my face, scanning the room for eyes in an attempt to gain back control.  You would think that with this background it would be easy for me to really embrace silence in my life.   Unfortunately, there are specific life moments where silence is oh so difficult.  

 

I was watching my favourite 'guilty pleasure' tv show last night.  There was a poignant moment when the two leads are finally reconnecting after the loss of their child.  Guilt is felt on both sides, along with hostility and fear.  The lead actress took the longest 20 seconds between her lines. (Ok, I know I'm exaggerating.  It was probably only max 6 seconds but still...) It felt like a lifetime, but in the best way possible.  Her face showed that life was happening and she was thinking.  Her face betrayed her thoughts in the most gentle, and true way.  It was literally torture.  I was amazed because I, personally, would struggle with how little she did amidst such a lengthy pause.  My default is to ''do"; to speak when things grow uncomfortable.  Now, don't get me wrong, I understand editing (although there was no cut within the silence). I know that the silence could have been a direction.  Understanding that, it was still such a literal example of how the silences are just as important as the notes, especially when so much needs to be said.  

 

I find silences easy when I am not invested in what happens. Silences can come when there is disengagement.  It's easy to shut down, close yourself off, and quieten yourself when you know that what you have to say won't be heard or even valued.  It is a silent rebellion.  A "screw you!  You don't deserve to hear what I have to say."  It reminds me of what my movement teacher noticed when we were relaxing after a strenuous stretch.  She saw that I was collapsing rather than relaxing.  The active doing of the exercise was juxtaposed by the collapse afterward.  I was all in or I was all out.  

 

Is there a way to be walking the tightrope between silence and speaking?  Or between the doing and the not doing.  I think the magic happens in that space between.  The space between the notes, or even, the space between the silences.  It's not an "either/or". I'm either speaking or I'm not. I'm either talking or I'm silent.  For me, it's a tightrope walk.  A balancing act.  Possibly it's not really about the act of speaking or remaining silent.  It's allowing the moment or the tension of moment to live.  Permitting the tightrope walk be what it is - uncomfortable.  

 

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