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The Music Column

Quiet, Please

Silence can be a bad thing if there is too much of it, but today that is not often the case, for we live in a noisy world.  The postindustrial era promised to turn down the volume, but it didn’t—too often, we are ourselves directly responsible for a lot of noise.  But not all of it, I hasten to say.  So we will have to think about the noise factors for a while.  The subject is negative in the sense that it is a way of getting at something else—namely, silence.  And silence is important as the necessary background not only for conversation, but also for music.  Silence is the dark velvet that sets off the lustrous pearl.

As grammar-school teachers used to say back when they knew something, the etymology of audience is a clarification.  Listeners must be quiet, or otherwise they cannot function as listeners.  So perhaps at this point you are saying to yourself, “OK, so I don’t talk too much—so what?”  So plenty.  I don’t presume that the readers of this journal are talkative and restless.  But it might be possible that some readers who have kindly lent their attention might learn something useful about the dangers of any slippage as far as noise is concerned.

Some noise enters our living space from the outside: traffic noise, for example.  There is a certain background also from inside: vibrations, electrical...

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