Silence Between Movements
I was listening to the Amazon music station Classical Focus while I was cooking. When I noticed spaces of silence I found myself momentarily irritated that the connection had been lost or that Alexa had stopped playing for some reason. Then, seconds later, I realized it was just the space between movements. I grew up playing flute in band and orchestra for years, hello! I know about this! Impatience and Western cultural norms had gotten the better of me. That soundless space is to prepare listeners for shifts in tone, tempo, or emotion within the next movement of the piece. It is not an end, merely a transition which begs our attention.
Sometimes we can have those moments when, after running, and running, and performing, or over-functioning for long periods we find ourselves uncomfortable in silence and stillness, when it happens upon us unintentionally. We may have that sudden drop in our guts like Wiley Coyote when he was running so hard he doesn’t realize he had run off the edge of a cliff. The expression on the coyote’s face of panic and fear can be awfully familiar.
Barbara J. Winter says, “When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.” When we find ourselves suspended in thin air after a particularly intense period in our lives, it may feel empty, like God has suddenly abandoned us. We become so accustomed to striving and generating that rest feels static or unstimulating. Some of us literally become addicted to the heightened state of adrenaline caused by chronic stress.
Perhaps more periods of intentional stillness and silence during which we set our focus inward on the still small voice of God in whatever methods the Holy One chooses to communicate with us, we will be more seasoned when life presents us with those phases of the calm between the storms. Silence and periods of calm, rather than being a time of dry abandonment or stagnancy, can become a soothing restorative space in which we prepare ourselves to muster our faith and gather our resources for the next movement of the score of our lives. They are also a wonderful opportunity to reflect and practice gratitude on the elements of life that made the recent periods of trial or chaos possible to survive. God has written and is directing all of it, including the parts of the other instruments for which we never see sheet music, that somehow in the end all blend together into beauty beyond comprehension.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is widely recognized for the powerful declaration, “Music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” We know that rest notes and pauses between movements create an affect that truly gives music life. I believe God gives us calm and quiet, whether we seek it or not, to allow us to be more present in the movements of our own songs.
Find a piece of music that makes you absolutely stop in your tracks and consumes you. Listen to it, and then sit in silence afterwards, bathing in the affects on your mind and body. In that listening and feeling, know that you have been in communication with the Holy!
Here’s a song I work and meditate with: