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.
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)
[In Quaker worship,] words should not break the silence, but continue it. For the Divine Life who was ministering through the medium of silence is the same Life as is now ministering through words. And when such words are truly spoken “In the Life,” then when such words cease, the uninterrupted silence and worship continue, for silence and words have been of one texture, one piece.