METTA MIND JOURNAL: CYNIC’S PAUL MASVIDAL ON THE SHAPE OF SILENCE
…the paramecium senses no more of the flute’s sweet warble than we do of the radio waves that pass through our bodies. It spends its life in silence, or more correctly, in soundlessness, for silence is the delicious muffle of an auditory system in repose, and an animal lacking an auditory system can no more know silence than one born blind can know darkness.
—from Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy by Robert Jourdain
I’m back at it with a particular tune, noticing how the space of silence is critical to the ebb and flow of a song’s evolution and ultimately, the shape of its birth.
Silence is not just about absence, subtraction, or less than. In any arrangement, silence can be performed in the service of contraction or expansion, very much like inhales and exhales. Silence also has a resonant quality because only in the vibrational space of silence can we better feel the parts composed of sound.
I was thinking about this spatial-songwriting concept on the way to rehearsal today and realized that, at present, I’m inside this particular tune as its shape evolves subtly and I’m hurling myself into a modus operandi that I have little control over. My only job here is to maintain a slow, nurturing cultivation….way more detached than smothering. A disciplined patience that sits, waiting for nothing to happen. Calmly active and nowhere to go. Just radiating simple “IS-ness” through the creative process.
Allowing a song to unravel is a delicate undertaking. You have to make room and give it the space it needs, and I mean delicate, kind of like the velvet fuzz that sprouts on a baby deer’s antlers. This fuzzy peach skin nourishes the antlers and helps them to grow. The “space fuzz” plays a big role in the antlers’ strength and shape, while being practically transparent in its makeup. It’s a balancing act of trust and letting go into an organic, velvety handmade shape of silence.
In silence, I can build and release tension, or generate room for something new to happen. Silence is actually quite powerful and intense if I am patient enough to allow it take on a tangible shape. Once in a while, I’ll put the guitar down and see if I can’t draw the shape on paper to see what a song looks like. Sometimes the shape of silence is circular and soft. Other times it’s a square, dead center in the middle of a maze of lines. I’m fascinated with silence and its deceptive complexity.
Each time I give myself the opportunity to be quiet, I get to listen, and that can be a really tough job. Just listening to the inner dialogue and getting that to slow down can be even more difficult. It’s in the silence that I get to take in life as it is, without evaluating it. Or, at least I don’t give the evaluating voice a microphone by forming sounds with my mouth. How many of us are comfortable in the space of long pauses, or do we feel the need to cover up that silence with more noise and distractions (computer, cell phone, video games, burying ourselves in work, and so on)? Some of us only visit the land of quiet when we retire each night for rest.
If you were to draw your personality in the form of a shape, what it would it look like? Are there any pockets of silence in that shape?
I invite readers to experiment by sitting in silence for 3 minutes, paying attention to that moment in the space of silence.
If you have suggestions for future Metta Mind Journal topics, or questions and comments about life in general, send them here: paul.cyniconline [at] gmail [dot] com