A Look Into Silence

One of my favorite classes that I have taken this semester is my Music History class. Now, usually I am not a history person. I would rather take a math or science class. This Music History class has really drawn me in, and I have taken a strong interest in what we are studying. Currently in the class we are discussing experimentation and modernism while looking at composers such as Dmitri Shostakovich. Just last week, though I was spending hours in the library working on a large research paper for this class. Now this may sound weird, but I actually enjoyed doing this because I learned so much about my topic. In the class there is only one paper due the entire semester, but it is quite lenghty. The good thing about this is you can choose any topic, as long as it relates to music history in some way. My paper was entitled “A Look Into Silence: From Past to Present,” and here are some of the things that I have learned from studying this:
Now my entire paper was about silence. In the paper I define silence in music and compare the similarities and differences between how silence was used in the classical era and the modern era. For the classical era I looked at Joesph Haydn’s works and for the modern era i concentrated on John Cage.
The first I talked about was the function of silence in each era. Silence in the classical era was used primarily for structure. The silences between each movement of a Haydn Symphony kept the listener aware of where they were in the piece. The lack of silence in Haydn’s “Creation” allows the listen to not have as much musical clarity of the music. It keeps the listener on edge and uncertain of where they are in the piece. In John Cage’s modern work, he also uses silence as a form of structure. An example of this would be in his piece “Music of Changes.”Music of Changes.jpg The picture shows how Cage showed duration of times through measurement markings above each note. The measurements where centimeter markings and were to represent approx. how long each note was suppose to be held.
Another use of silence that I discovered is that it can be humerous. Haydn used silences in his string quartets to catcha listener off guard and to make them laugh at the melody. He would have his quartet play the entire melody through once, and then they would play it again with pauses. John Cage also used silence in his music, in fact he has a piece that is entirely silent called “4’33.” Cage did not mean for this piece to be humerous, instead he trying to prove that all noise is music.
Overall, this paper was very interesting to write. If you are interested in silence found in music you should look up “4’33″ (Four Minutes-Thirty Three Seconds) by John Cage and “String Quartet in Eb Major, Opus 33″ by Joseph Haydn.