10 June 2008

Walking Through Billowy Clouds of Nothingness: A Look at the Qualities of Silence

by b4rton

Walking Through Billowy Clouds of Nothingness:

A Look at the Qualities of Silence

Silent Night

Her name is Silence.

She sits on the stump of the old oak tree

near the calm lake—too tired to move,

and too tired to breathe.

She watches minnows play,

under a blanket of blue,

as the sun peaks over the horizon

of a grassy hill laden with dew.

White clouds twist above

on their journey from the sea—

gently tumbling, rolling,

and wrestling against the breeze.

Silence takes a silent breath,

and to the east she casts

a glance towards morning’s cue;

the night is gone at last.

She dissipates aside the cold

as warm air gently rushes in.

A rooster crows at the neighboring farm,

signaling the morning birds to sing.

Day passes with much commotion.

Sun beams grab at their last chance

to warm the land and its beasts while

Silence awakes to begin her lonely dance.

Browsing the Web

Included below are a collection of websites which revolve around the importance of the absence of sound:

The Role of Silence in Musici

Tyra Neftzger writes about the important of silence in jazz music. Speaking in terms of musical anticipation, Neftzger argues that silence plays a “tension and release” role in music which has an ephemeral yet enduring and positive effect on the listener. She argues that music, like an intricately painted canvas, uses its “colors” to paint the scenes, and silence is one of the colors.

Music and Silence. Finnish Symbolismii

At the Ateneum Art Museum. Helsinki, Finland.

"Finnish Symbolism invites visitors to listen to art, emphasising the deep relationship between art and music that prevailed at the turn of the 19th century into the 20th century. Its themes range from human and nature's voices and Symbolist music to the inner voice and silence, leading the visitor from sound, colour and light to darkness."

“Music and Silence” shows that sight and sound are intertwined, and this exposition urges the participant to engage the inner self and listen. Representations of screams and of crying are shown. Though this website argues for the deadness of silence, it doesn’t fail to argue the importance of it.


Silence-ip.org is a noise-abatement project which goal is to reduce the noise levels of urban transportation in order to negate the ever increasing levels of dangerous noises. Its overall goal is to reduce the emissions by at least 10 dbA. The site focuses its efforts in many different directions; from the engineering/planning of streets, to the composition of the streets; from traffic flow planning to encouraging vehicle manufacturers to alter designs to make quieter cars.

Ride of Silenceiv

Even cyclists (who would have guessed?) know the power of silence. Join them world-wide as they ride, in silence, to honor cyclists who were killed on the road. This site is proof that we honor people with silence. In this manner, we are forced to think about them. Respect builds up in us, and only then are we free to mourn.

Silence – The absence of sound. v

Embracing the Silence”– a speech about listening and waiting

Thank you all for coming today. I told my boss probably the same thing that you all did: “Do I have to go?” He said, “Yes.” I sat there waiting for some witticism about the importance of being the keynote speaker. Nothing. The man is a brick wall. Oh he’s here? And he’s apparently also speaking later today?

So … what do you all want me to talk about? Hopefully “speaking”; I don’t know of much else. More than the speaking, though; I want to address the moments in conversation that many of you hate or love, depending upon your personality type. I want to talk about the one aspect of verbal communication that is second in importance only to the words being spoken. Some of you might have guessed this already if you’ve read my book, Living in the Dead Zone: The Agony of Listening, which is available at all fine book stores, and probably the not-so-fine ones, as well. Okay, maybe not the fine book stores. It’s out there somewhere.

I want you to think about the automated voices on answering machines or voicemail messages. Consider robots and androids, and computers like HAL on 2001: A Space Odyssey. They all have odd voices. It wasn’t until recently in television and movies with shows like Star Trek and the recent installments of Battlestar Gallactica that artificial life started having authentic voice, and these voices are voice-overs. Even with the assistance of computers, humans can’t replicate authentic voices using inauthentic methods. <drink water to let their minds roam>

What sets humans apart from computers Despite the obvious physiological issue computers cant feel They cant anticipate They cant wait for the punch line and burst into laughter or be disappointed and groan at a joke Rhythm and flow is what its all about When youre talking youre producing sounds and silence It doesnt just happen You make it happen and making it happen being comfortable with it using it for emphasis it makes your words have meaning You must be comfortable with the silence because if you arent your words will eat you up You wont have a feel for your listeners They will grow disinterested You wont know when its time to move on How can you know anyone is following if theres nothing but a rambling flow of incoherent words interrupted only by gasps of breath Imagine if the newscasts were not read by anchors but by automated robots How long could you listen if at all before muting the television in order to read the news with closed captioning

WhatIwanttotalkaboutoverthenexttwentyminutesorsoaretipsandtricksyoucanusetoengageyourlistenersbyembracingthesilence, no matter how uncomfortable it may be sometimes.

A Demonstration of Punctuationvi, and Why We Use It.

Punctuation: The intonation of their voice and even the look on their face will tell you when a thought begins and when a thought ends so you don’t have to guess at what theyre saying or even what theyre thinking essentially they are giving you verbal cues on how to mentally punctuate their sentences

The space: whenyouhearsomeonetalkyoudon’texpectthemtopauseforthenextword.

These two critical devices (punctuation and space) are important in writing. They allow us to help communicate exactly what we mean without the worry of needing to repeat what is said or written. Spaces are pauses between words; they are the absences of sound telling us when one word ends and the next begins. The next step up in the food chain is the comma, period and other less frequently used, though similarly important, punctuation marks that tell us when one thought ends and the next begins. Paragraphs, chapters, books, etc. —on and on ad infinitum.

Victor Borge understood the importance of punctuation, and his comedy sketch “Phonetic Punctuation”vii shows us that we cannot voice punctuation, yet at the same time we cannot ignore it either.

Neither should we ignore silence in speech. Absolutely not! It’s just the opposite; we need to voice it as well. How do you voice the absence of sound? Shut your mouth. It can’t be any simpler than that. Why? Because there are two sides to a conversation, and when you are talking, someone is listening. Give them a chance, and they’ll return the favor.

So the next time you’re deep in conversation with someone. Take time to pause and reflect on the amount of time you’re occupying as compared to them. You might realize that you’re talking more than you realize. Be careful because they might just get up and wal


Davis, Robert L. and Mark F. Shadle. Teaching Multiwriting; Researching and Composing with Multiple Genres, Media, Disciplines, and Cultures. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007.

Johnson, Cheryl L. and Jayne A. Moneysmith. Multiple Genres, Multiple Voices; Teaching Argument in Composition and Literature. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook Publishers, Inc., 2005.

Zeldin, Theodore. Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives. London: The Harvill Press, 1998.