You walk along a tropical beach early in the morning. The wind is cool and the sand still unspoilt by footprints - a beautiful emptiness. And then there are seashells - sometimes there is a whole field of them, but mostly you find single shells on an empty stretch of sand. Often simple, sometimes very complex, each shell is unique. Occasional stars in the night sky, birds in an empty blue sky, shells on a beach: Some kinds of beauty require a large background of emptiness, of silence.
Noisy city life and most human music leave no room for this kind of silence. Even music composed to convey a sense of silence is mostly full of something - very rarely have more than short moments of total silence, of actually nothing happening, been really allowed to be a part of this music. Would it be too difficult or boring to listen to music that includes long stretches of silence? Could music stand for itself if it consisted mostly of nothing?
The project was inspired by a piece called "Silence", composed by Wadada Leo Smith and performed by Anthony Braxton and Richard Teitelbaum.
"Silence," as the title implies, is largely concerned with the disposition of sounds in space and shows the strong influence that the contemporary classical world, particularly John Cage, had on these musicians in their early years.
Smith's Silence piece consists mainly of silence, interspersed with occasional short sounds. These sounds, in Braxton's version played on saxophone, percussion, and other instruments, emphasize the silence, rather than filling it up with something. The silent pauses between sounds last up to 90 seconds. Listening to this piece is quite an unusual experience.
This project expands this composition idea with 21st century methods - it turns it into a social media based collaborative work, using the musical creativity of many people. And the result is not limited in time, as Braxton's 25 minute piece was - this is a web based generative sound installation that, similar to Eno's systems music, can theoretically last forever without ever repeating.
Click the Play link and listen to more than 300 tiny compositions, contributed by more than 20 composers. These sounds are embedded in a large field of silence. There are silences of varying lengths (a second to several minutes). The whole cycle is different every time and lasts for several hours.
Silence is meant to be more than a background for occasional sounds here. A few colorful dots on a large white canvas need the space to be what they are. Is it possible to rest in silence while listening, without waiting for the next sound?