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“The silence must be longer. This music is about the silence. The sounds are there to surround the silence.” ― Arvo Pärt, Estonian composer
From his youth, Arvo Pärt was a gifted composer, starting by mimicking the neo-classicists before following the trend of modernist atonality. While the tastemakers insisted this was the proper path, Pärt was disappointed with his output and music itself.
He turned his back on modernity and retreated to an Orthodox monastery where he practiced silence for several years. When he emerged, everything was different. He discovered that music doesn’t arise from avant-garde cacophony but from silence.
When a conductor was rushing through one of his works, trying to fill every gap with notes, Pärt corrected him. “The silence must be longer. This music is about the silence. The sounds are there to surround the silence.”
The conductor was baffled, asking, “Exactly how many beats? What do you do during the silence?”
Pärt’s response: “You don’t do anything. You wait. God does it.”
In the above piece, “Te Deum,” you need the relative quiet of the first several minutes to experience the release that hits at 5:35.
Without a measure of silence, music is often just noise.