Week 8: silence is…

Cages Sonata[facsimile of manuscript] Edition Peters No.6755 © 1960 by Henmar Press Inc., New York. Reproduced in Silence, Music, Silent Music by Nicky Losseff and Jenny Doctor, p.100.

How do you draw silence? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself (and others) all week.  This musical score, part of Sonata II  by composer John Cage, contains periods of silence, which are actually “heard”. According to Losseff and Doctor in their book Silence, Music , Silent Music; Cage wanted the silence to be something, a presence that is there but not sound. As I am not a musician, unfortunately I cannot read the “expressive” silences  represented by crotchet rests and quavers  to “enhance expressivity by providing punctuation”. [1]

What I see instead, is a broken line underscored by an unbroken line. These stand out  as a way to express a continuum of silence measured by time. Visually this works for me as a way to represent the pause between lifting a mould out of the vat of water, waiting for the water to drain, then laying the mould down flat to allow the fibres to meld together.

wet screen resting

The pulp is allowed to settle, ‘pausing’ to wait for the fibres to bind together before the mould is carried to a wall to lean against and dry in the sun. This pause is the time when I too, stop, when I listen to the sounds of birdsong outside or the ambient sounds of neighbours talking, dogs barking, the detritus of everyday life being lived. Plenty of life in this silent line!

pause & bird song


[1] Nicky Losseff and Jennifer R. Doctor, Silence, Music, Silent Music (Hampshire, England: Ashgate, 2007), 100-01.


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