Sound is something that is very important to me. As a musician and a professional sound engineer I need my ears and make a living out of crafting, shaping and forming aural constructs. Sound is not only a medium of information exchange and communication, it can also be a thing of beauty, balance and comfort. I love the sound of an E major being struck on an electric guitar through a cranked-up valve amp. I love the sound of a robin in full song in the middle of the night because it’s found a street light and it thinks dawn is about to break. I love the glugging sound made when you pour that first glass of wine out of the bottle. I love the silly noises my parents always seem to make between picking up the phone and saying, ‘Hello.’ But there is another sound that I think is very special. It’s impossible to record or photograph because it’s immovable from the places it occurs. It’s the sound of silence.
Very often when I get home from a busy day at work in the recording studio I’ll just sit on the sofa and very deliberately not put the TV or the stereo on. I will sit and enjoy the quiet. It’s about more than just resting my ears, I enjoy the stillness of the empty house and the moments of calm. But as lovely as these times are, the Sound of Silence is greater than that. I have been to many places that are quiet and I’ve worked in studios where the acoustic treatment is so good that sound seems to be sucked away from you into the walls. The Sound of Silence is greater than these things. It’s not like ‘no noise’ it’s like ‘negative noise’. And it’s loud.
Take a walk in the countryside and you will hear a great variety of sounds – whether you’re hearing the crashing of waves on the beach, the wind rustling through the leaves in the woods or the babbling brooks in the valleys there are myriad sounds to be heard that calm the soul. But at other times we hear the sound of silence. It’s the sound the snow makes as you stand by yourself and listen to it fall; the world holding it’s breath as awaits it’s transformation. It’s a powerful thing. It compels you to listen to it as it screams at you about it’s depth and richness. I find it sometimes in the Morecambe Bay Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty when conditions are perfect. It is a silence so complete that the occasional cry of a curlew or oystercatcher doesn’t puncture it; it enforces it and makes it stronger. It demands respect; and you obey lest you break the magic.
The Sound of Silence is the sound of space. It’s the sound of timeout. It’s like a mirror. It’s a rare thing, it’s valuable and it’s bizarre. It’s not that something’s missing – like a TV on mute – it’s that something is very definitely there and choosing to be noiseless.
The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, “Absolute silence leads to sadness. It is the image of death.” I couldn’t disagree more.