Silence is Golden
Talking with my
Tenore during the rehearsal break the other week, he was bemoaning the
ringtones we're bombarded with from all sides these days. Having just
one of those fancy mobiles that take MP3 files as ringtones, he was
something a bit better than the average. I ventured, "I'd thought of
few snatches of recorded blackbird song when I get a new phone. The Mog
get used to it after a while." "Not a bad idea" he conceded, "but you
miss it if you were outside. I was thinking more along classical lines.
would you suggest?" Having won the complete Beethoven string quartets
on eBay a
few months ago for only £12, my first thought was those three
from the finale of Op 135, beneath which the composer wrote "Must it
Perhaps that would do for calls from one's accountant. Tony pondered.
he said, as he ran it through in his mind. "Yes, but the trouble is,
quality of reproduction of most mobiles is worse than a 1960's tranny."
that, I mused. A '60's tranny contained maybe 6 to 8 transistors in
cans. (I bought a transistor to play with when I was about 13, for 6s
think.) Some mobiles today probably contain 100 million times as many,
onto their silicon chips. There's progress for you. But we digress. "If
can't abide the quality of reproduction" I protested, "you'd be better
sticking to an old-fashioned 'ring-ring'". "But don't you see?" he
"There’s one thing that even the worst mobile can reproduce with almost
fidelity!" "No!" I avowed. "But of course!" he declared triumphantly.
implications of this astounding insight
gradually sank in. Remember that fascinating evening last term when
Phibbs described how all music comes out of the silence that precedes
making the silence itself a part of the music? Remember our Messiah
and Andrew’s 10-months'-pregnant pause before the final Amen? (The
at their best - no chattering, no esss-ing, no mobiles going off…) The
a piece of music can be the most exciting bits. "How about the pause,
thousand years compressed into a moment, just before Gerontius gets his
of God?" suggested Tony. "Brilliant" I replied, "but too short for a
Ah, but do you know Beethoven Op 18 No 1?" (I was back on the
string quartets.) "The coda to the Adagio contains 6 whole metronomic
silence, repeated three times over. It's incredible." "Perfect!"
Tony, and he proceeded to conduct 6 beats of silence in the air - a
faithful rendition of Beethoven have I never heard - before pressing
button on his mobile. (There was no one on the line. He looked at his
with a puzzled expression.)
then we were interrupted by the bell sounding
the end of the break, so we returned to our places.
had occasion to ring Tony later in the week.
He didn't answer. Can't think why.
Le Riche, 2006
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