New Piece- Not Silent!

This piece is a personal response to

“There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time.
There is always something to see, something to hear.
In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.”

John Cage

This is part of a call for an audio work, and its very hard to disagree with John Cage on this. The world is full of sound both man-made and natural; I think sound and music are both things we actively seek. Its always interesting that wherever anyone tries to actively create a quiet environment I personally end up listening even harder for sounds than I otherwise would, almost like somebody struggling to see in dim light; which is where John Cage made his point with 4’33”- I end up, as I should, tuning into all the environmental sounds going on around. I think theres also a visual aspect in that whenever I enter a very tidy space I end up looking for details.

This feeds into my personal response that not only can we not make silence or empty space but we actually avoid doing so by both creating so much man-made music but also the fact that we listen so intently to natural sounds. So by way of expressing this Ive made this piece which knits together both the man-made and the natural and makes artificial connections between the two.

I had a narrow window of opportunity to do a set of field recordings; what a wanted was something that was tied by geography and place, in order to provide a narrative, so last week (May 13th) I had planned to  be at Kettles Yard for a lunchtime concert and used the afternoon to do a sound walk through Cambridge starting at Kettles Yard and ending under the Elizabeth Way bridge as it passes over the river.

There were six points I made the recordings; By the little ancient church of St Peters on the grassy bank just by the side of Kettles Yard where I got St Giles’ church bell tolling on the hour; On Magdalen bridge, by the river at the swimming pool, further down opposite the rowing clubs and across the field, and finally under the ring road bridge.

The walk then provides the narrative and the composed music played on synthesizers with timbres written to blend, provides the aritificial, composed content. There is also sub-bass in this piece- that was an imitation of a boy racer car with a large car audio system, which I heard but failed to record.

My point to this piece is not only is John Cages quote correct (in my opinion) in that silence and empty spaces dont natually exist, but also we as humans, actively seek to both create sounds and listen to what is already there and that urge to make and listen, is very strong, at least in some of us.

The piece:

The original graphic score showing the concept

Original graphic score for Not Silent detailing structure and content

About stuartrussellcomposer

Composer/ sound artist. Electronic musician. Modern classical composer
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