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The Sound of Silence (is Music)

tangerines's picture

I found our class today with Tian fascinating because it connected to several other ideas. The John Cage piece, Tian sampled for us, 4’ 3”, reminded me  of our earlier class when we listened to a noise band and questioned the definition of information. Now, however, I question the definition of music. I love the idea that even silence has a sound (or that there is no such thing as silence…). If this is true, then silence can create music just as noise does. This train of thought reminded me of an article I read a few months ago on Sean Forbes (, a deaf rapper. Sean is profoundly deaf and yet is able to make music. His first single, “I’m Deaf,” is about his experiences as a deaf person. The silence he “hears” has inarguably affected the way he creates music. The quote from Aristoxenus that Tian shared with us, on the uselessness of notation, is also connected to this. The notes themselves, and their notation, have no value to Sean because he can’t hear the musical notes of his songs – instead, he can feel the vibrations of the bass. I'm still processing this new way of thinking about sound and silence, but I think I like the idea that silence is sound and music is in everything.


Sean's Single, "I'm Deaf"



cara's picture

I think the point here about

I think the point here about how Sean and other deaf artists experience and create music through vibrations is very interesting. I definitely agree that music has a physicality that is really important in how we experience music. For instance, I love watching Taiko Drumming or Drum-line performances, and listening to the music is really only a part of the experience. Especially in Taiko drumming, the drummers have a specific way they move through out the performance, the visuals along with the feeling of the drum vibrating in your chest add another dimension to the music. I don't think I would ever listen to a recording of a drum performance with the same level of awe.

J.Yoo's picture

More Deaf Musicians.

In a lovely coincidence, posted this article just this morning about a Venezuelan school for disabled children.  Specifically, the article talks about a choir of deaf children; some were singing, harmonizing with each other, while others performed the lyrics in sign language.  I wonder how the silent children and their alternative communication effected how the audience received the piece.

MSA322's picture

Sience is language, and is music.

I truly believe that silence speaks. Silence reaches out to the mind and soul of the events or incidents we go through. I really enjoyed the performance Tiang performed. At first I didn't know what he was going to do, but I heard so many things, I heard thoughts screaming, his thoughts, my thoughts everybody else's thoughts. Although I might not comprehend those thoughts, I knew they were there, I heard them.

Silence is language, and music is one kind of language too. We communicate through music and we communicate through silence. It's the beauty of freedom. Although to some, noise is intolerable, I was reminded with the noise song we heard, it really all falls down to our own interpretations and opinions. Take two people, one who's been having a wonderful day, and one who's been going through some rough times, and have them listen to silence, and to noise, each would "translate" and "decode" the sounds differently, depending on their own emotions and thoughts at the time. So, I really do think that music is language, and so is silence, speaking out to us and helping us express our feelings.

ekthorp's picture

Silence is Silence

 When my father first told me about 4’ 33”, during my junior year of high school, I found the idea ridiculous and absurd. I believed that it was not original, profound or art. I thought it was just four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence. But this year,  when Tian just doing 2 movements of the piece, I thought it was amazing. I don’t know what changed for me in two years, but I can see the silence in this piece so much better now. I see it as true creativity, and amazingly complex. Chase’s work shows how much we mistake for both art and non-art. 

Challenging what we hear and what we hear as beautiful challenges all the senses veracity. One of my friends is legally blind, and absolutely blind without her contacts, as are her parents. However, she is a world-side bowling champion. She has been paid to travel and bowl; bowling got her to Amsterdam and Australia. She’s been bowling since infancy, as her parents have. Her entire family is amazing at bowling. She chalanges the idea of what it means to be sighted- I certainly cannot bowl a 298, like she can. I think all the people that angered at the first performance of Chase’s did not understand the beauty in the piece. That not only is there music in the noises we here in silence, but music in silence itself. Or that silence does not even have to be music. Silence can just be silent. 

Apocalipsis's picture

3/25 post on Tian & Barad

It's very interesting that you, tangerines, should submit a post on the relationship between silence and music where silence can be music and can be made by those who cannot hear it, but rather feel the sensation. This really connects to Barad's argument about the role of human agency where she proposes that this phenomenon be represented through quantum mechanics in which we understand entanglement through her extension of "Knowing as part of being, from being part of nature" vs. "knowing as a human spectator, from outside of nature." However, is it necessary to learn quantum mechanics in order to understand this concept of human agency, because it seems that music can also be a tool through which we understood this concept of entanglement through understanding sensation and  the role of human agency.

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