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Readings and Quotations on Silence

This page has a collection of readings and quotations on the topic of silence.

“Silence is your Friend –
  You are always playing a duet with the silence around you.”

-- David Darling, a mantra of the Music for People organization.

“Silence is the potential from which music can arise.”

-- Keith Jarrett, from the liner notes of the Spirits CD.

Silence which is Vibrant, Silence which is Stagnant

“Our opinion concerning the origin of music depends on our opinion of silence. There is a silence which is vibrant, and there is a silence which is stagnant — not dormant nor containing latent power, but absolutely lifeless. Through this stagnant silence there passes a wave of mental impulse; this is repeated, it constitutes itself a unit, the silence becomes vibrant, it becomes a medium of communication, and the mental impulse may, through this vibrant silence, be transmitted to minds which are sufficiently sensitive to receive it. From this intensity of vibration the song bursts forth, like lightning from a cloud. The intensity being reduced, the means of expression is changed to words of an extremely limited vocabulary; this is succeeded by an increased number of words until in profuseness of verbiage the more subtle means of communication are lost. The human race today is forgetting what silence is or can be. We are too noisy to know its possibilities. We seize the tools nearest at hand, and have too long depended upon words. The silent figures sitting motionless along the Ganges are monuments to the silence that died centuries ago.”

-- Frances Densmore, excerpt from [Densmore 1909] Scale Formation in Primitive Music, pages 3–4.

The Soundless Sound

Music is the art of hearing the soundless sound,
the art of hearing the music of silence –
what the Zen people call the sound of one hand clapping.

When you are utterly silent,
not a single thought passes your mind,
there is not even a ripple of any feeling in your heart.

Then you start, for the first time,
hearing silence …

Music helps you from the outside to fall in tune with the inner ...
Listening to great music you suddenly become silent – with no effort.

Falling in tune with the music you lose your ego with no effort.
You become relaxed, you fall into a deep rest. 
You are alert, awake, and yet in a subtle way drunk.

-- Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho), excerpt from [Rajneesh 1981] Beloved of My Heart — Darshan Diary, First Edition

Silence, Liberty and Peace

“The twentieth century is, among other things, the Age of Noise. Physical noise, mental noise and noise of desire — we hold history's record for all of them. And no wonder; for all the resources of our almost miraculous technology have been thrown into the current assault against silence. That most popular and influential of all recent inventions, the radio is nothing but a conduit through which pre-fabricated din can flow into our homes. And this din goes far deeper, of course, than the eardrums. It penetrates the mind, filling it with a babel of distractions, blasts of corybantic or sentimental music, continually repeated doses of drama that bring no catharsis, but usually create a craving for daily or even hourly emotional enemas. And where, as in most countries, the broadcasting stations support themselves by selling time to advertisers, the noise is carried from the ear, through the realms of phantasy, knowledge and feeling to the ego's core of wish and desire. Spoken or printed, broadcast over the ether or on wood-pulp, all advertising copy has but one purpose -- to prevent the will from ever achieving silence. Desirelessness is the condition of deliverance and illumination. The condition of an expanding and technologically progressive system of mass production is universal craving. Advertising is the organized effort to extend and intensify the workings of that force, which (as all the saints and teachers of all the higher religions have always taught) is the principal cause of suffering and wrong-doing and the greatest obstacle between the human soul and its Divine Ground.”

-- Aldous Huxley, excerpt from [Huxley 1946].

The Hidden Harmony

When for the first time you fall in love, you meet the opposite. Immediately, it is as if you have got wings, you can fly; poetry arises in your heart. What is happening? The opposite has created something in you. Silence alone is not very beautiful, sound alone is not very beautiful, but the meeting of sound and silence is very, very beautiful — that is music. The meeting of silence and sound is music.

-- Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho), excerpt from [Rajneesh 1978] The Hidden Harmony — Talks on Heraclitus, page 111.

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