By Mark Holland, Hunky Dory Music Shop, Spillers Lane, Clonakilty
There is no point eating on a full stomach. Hunger being the best sauce, a healthy appetite makes a freshly caught mackerel taste like it must have been stolen from the Gods. Remember that sandwich you had on the beach after a swim?
Likewise you need silence to hear music, to really hear the music. Sometimes, in well-crafted music, you can hear the silence in the music, the notes or beats that have been left out. Prepared for, but then only implied, for you to fill in yourself. It’s joy, internally, sub-consciously involving you in the composition of the piece. Very confident composers like Einaudi (if you haven’t heard him then treat yourself) build a sequence but seem to leave it unfinished for the listener to resolve for themselves in their own way, which can make it so satisfying. His music was used in the French film ‘Untouchables’, which if you haven’t already seen then treat yourself again!
The opposite approach to this is the ‘wall of noise’ technique, as espoused by such as My Bloody Valentine, and used very effectively by Cork band Elastic Sleep. Here you need to tune in to the sound to hear the melody and complex harmonies underneath. But, as above, when you do hear them it’s like you have discovered something secret, special, that not everyone will get. The wall of noise is much more reflective of the post industrial age in which we live, where there is never pure silence, there is always something whirring in the background.
Context is a factor in what can make music sound good or not, Heavy Metal doesn’t enhance the whole fine dining experience but conversely a nice meal can make a previously disregarded chanteuse sound like an angel to you. Environment is another factor; Bono, justifying himself to Dave Fanning on the radio, made the point that big 1970s American stadium rock sounded great in big 1970s American cars, as does Hip Hop today. And time of day is important; sometimes music that is almost perfect late in the evening can leave you stone cold in the light of day.
But you can’t hear anything without silences in between. You need a break, you need a gap, you need a rest. Not just emotionally, but physically as well, your ears get exhausted. That’s why we keep turning it up to make it sound better, that’s when your poor little fla-ed out ears need a rest. They can hear perfectly well at low volume but now they are tired.
And that’s what I think is wrong with MP3 players, they go anonymously on and on through endless piles of unzipped audio files that, by the end of the day, can leave you feeling worn out.
Silence is golden, it doesn’t have to be passive, make space for your own little self, and at the end of it decide what you want to listen to and enjoy.
Coincidentally, The Script has just released its new album (September 12) ‘No Sound Without Silence’.
Hunky Dory stocks a huge range of instruments, accessories, CDs and vinyl. Contact Mark on 023 8834982 or pop in to have a listen.