Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Music, Time, Eternity

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Music, Time, Eternity

Article excerpt

I am eleven years old. I am about to walk on stage for my first concert. All is silence here in the wings, far from the hubbub in the hall as the audience arrives. I am overcome by a fear that I've never felt before. I walk on stage accompanied by the sound of my footsteps and those of the audience. Suddenly deep within me I feel I must return to the long silence offstage before I play my first note. How extraordinary that I need all these people in front of me to feel the absolute necessity for silence that is required before music can be played.

The truth dawns on me that noise is something that we merely hear. To experience music, we must listen to it, and to be able to listen, there must be an inner silence. Without this silence, there is no music. I must immediately forget the concert hall, the audience, the noise, the doors that open and close in the muffled velvet atmosphere. . . . I must hear only my own silence, the silence that lives deep in my heart. Breathe deeply. Breathing must make my fingers move. "Breathe the music and you will be inspired," our music teacher says.

The first note bursts from my fingers, my body, my soul, from the wonderful silence that fills me and uplifts me. How could I have been afraid? It is fear that makes us want to make noise; this evening I realize that noise is the sin of music. In music, the "frills" are what we project from our inner noise, from our fear of silence. My feet are firmly on the ground, my head is in the clouds and my hands fly over the keyboard. Every gesture that spells out music is "sacred". Sounds die out as I play, but no one notices that they are gone. They die without dying. They are absorbed in the body and soul of the listener and go on living there. The subtle music of inner silence. Music lives in all of us. The audience and I are now one, bound by this music that rises from my fingers like a meadow moved by silence.

A timeless moment

"You can't get to sleep?"

"Who are you? How do you know I can't sleep?"

"I am an old man who lives in the silence of eternity. Your concert this evening was very good."

"Did you think so? I don't know whether I played the music or whether the music played for me. . . ."

"It played neither for you nor for anyone in particular. It played, that's all. Music is the meeting place of the temporal and the timeless, the vertical and the horizontal. The meeting place is your heart, the seat of all the emotions expressed by music. This is how the universe advances in harmony with us. It is our heart, and our heart is the universe. A single soul, like yours, contains the feelings of all humanity. …

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