It is often said that music is a language; some say it is the universal language. As with any language, the spaces are essential. Without spaces on the printed page or pauses in speaking, we couldn’t understand what is being said. Likewise, silence is the canvas we paint our music upon.
When the English composer Solomon Eccles became a Quaker around 1665, he sold or gave away all his musical instruments and all his printed music. Then, fearful that by doing so he had led the recipients morally astray, he bought everything back, carried it to the top of London’s Temple Hill, stomped it to pieces, and set it all on fire.
Dear Editor: I wanted to thank you for undertaking a group discussion by videoconference. I listened to the entire hour. One type of “bullying” that did not come up is the personal use of the silence as a bully pulpit (I call it “Quaker open Mic”). I have participated in a number of meetings in different parts of the West. A weighty Friend in one meeting produced a sermonette each First Day.
Brevity is an under-appreciated virtue. If you speak [during Quaker worship], do not feel compelled to explore all the implications of your insight. Rather, leave room for the Spirit to work through the next person, building on your words and possibly extending them in an unexpected direction.
- Baltimore Yearly Meeting (2007)