I was watching a documentary about silence, when one phrase really struck me. The speaker, John Cage, said that the function of art ‘is to imitate nature in her manner of operation’. What I liked about this was that it reminded me of a piano piece called Nuvole Bianchi (White Clouds) by Ludovico Einaudi. The piece seeks to imitate the movement of clouds through pace, changes in volume and emotion. Absolute silence in the real world is rare, if not impossible to come by, but, by seeking silence and thereby quiet and quieter places we can develop a deeper appreciation for the noises presented to us. We are able to find a deeper understanding of the world around us when we focus unstintingly on one particular sound (In Pursuit of Silence, 2016). I think that this is brought home when one hears the opening 1:08 seconds of the piano piece, which I have played and uploaded below.
The playing of a few notes and then letting the music die out lets the mind focus on the next sound that is going to play, the silence drawing you in to focus your attention on the music.
The link between nature and sound comes from the uniqueness of the different aspects of each landscape and their individual individual soundscape. There is an affective aspect of sound, which stems from the relationship, exchanges and movements between body and place. This affective property in sound is what causes the body to have an emotional reaction or creating a feeling within a person. The affective capacity is so strong that some may go so far as to claim that sound can set the atmosphere and tone of a room or city. You do not have to be consciously listening to the sound to be affected by it (Gallagher, 2016) but when one does give a particular sound their full attention that noise can transport them to a different place and their imagination can conjure visuals, feelings and thoughts that the sound makes them relate to. This shows that music can play a key role in the production of place, literally or metaphorically, as a material setting. It can also become a concept or symbol that can be interpreted and represented in multiple ways through the creation of an affective atmosphere (Hudson, 2006). In the context of music relating to the sound of nature this would be the metaphorical reconstruction of a place as the music tries to symbolize and represent the moving white clouds through the sky. The video below tries to portray this.
Silence, in and of itself, does not exist as a physical condition in the real world as noise is all around us. Rather silence should be thought of as our experience of noise in the world and what we individually define as silence (Shen, 2017). For me it is those moments when you are solely focused on one sound, one piece of music and it slowly fades…that is silence.
Full Nuvole Bianchi Spotify Audio: https://open.spotify.com/track/3weNRklVDqb4Rr5MhKBR3D?si=IdmaXG8SQJ6yzkNRDStxtw
Einaudi, L., 2020. Nuvole Bianchi. [Spotify] Decca Music Group Limited.
Gallagher, M., Kanngieser, A. and Prior, J. (2016) Listening geographies: landscape, affect and geotechnologies, Progress in Human Geography
Hudson, R. (2006) “Regions and place: music, identity and place”, Progress in Human Geography, vol. 30, no. 5, pp. 626-634.
In Pursuit of Silence. 2016. [film] Directed by P. Shen. Roco Films.
Shen, P. (2017) Form Out Of Formlessness. [online] Medium. Available at: https://medium.com/@patrickyshen/form-out-of-formlessness-8710531358f6