I’ve become a big fan. I’ve always been aware of it of course. It was there between the gaps of albums. Or in the library at school. Or during the awkward trips in the car with my dad. But it was almost always something to be obliterated and shattered- usually by music. At any opportunity I would fill this offending silence with whatever music came to hand- be it The Ramones or Laura Nyro. And that’s the way it was for years.
But now I have discovered that I actually prefer the gaps. I used to be on conversational terms with the noted historian Dr John Davies and, at times, I would enthuse about a new band or artist I’d recently discovered for myself and I would attempt to persuade him to investigate. I still remember his words- “ah, but is it better than silence?”
These days, in a house stocked to the brim with records and CDs, I find myself often staring at the mute hi-fi thinking “I actually like what I’m hearing now. The sound of the room. The creaks. The occasional rush of a breeze outside. A car whooshing by.”
When I walk into town through the park I don’t wear headphones because I would miss the birdsong and the snaps from people’s conversations as I pass. When I drive I don’t switch on the radio because I enjoy the hum of the engine and the rush of an overtaking lorry.
There’s never such a thing as genuine silence. Nature, abhorring a vacuum as she does, sees to that of course. But with music gone, I sometimes feel that it’s closer. If, as Paul Klee once claimed, “all art aspires to the condition of music” then perhaps all music aspires to the condition of silence. And maybe John Cage was right all along.