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ISTANBUL TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY !!

GRADUATE SCHOOL OF ARTS AND SOCIAL SCIENCES

THE NOTION OF SILENCE IN MUSIC:

A CHORAL CONDUCTING PERSPECTIVE

M. A. FINAL PROJECT by
Burak Onur ERDEM
(4009091006)

Dr. Erol Üçer Centre for Advanced Studies in Music (MIAM)

MAY 2012
!STANBUL TEKN!K ÜN!VERS!TES! ! SOSYAL B!L!MLER ENST!TÜSÜ

MÜZ!KTE SESS!ZL!K KAVRAMI:

KORO "EFL!#! AÇISINDAN B!R BAKI"

YÜKSEK L!SANS B!T!RME PROJES!


Burak Onur ERDEM
(4009091006)

Dr. Erol Üçer Müzik !leri Ara$tırmalar Merkezi (MIAM)

MAYIS 2012
To my grandmother,

! """!
Acknowledgments

I would like to extend my deepest thanks to my advisor Dr. Adam Roberts for making it
possible for me to work on this project and guided me throughout my study. I am
grateful to Dr. Robert Reigle and Dr. Paul Whitehead, who shared their valuable
comments about the project.
I would like to thank my dear choir members from Rezonans for inspiring me with all
their musical input in every rehearsal and concert.
I would like to thank to all my friends who helped with my project with their generous
efforts and bright ideas:

Jerfi Aji, Volkan Akkoç, !irin Özgün, Tufan Büyükgüngör


Last but not least, I would like to express my deepest gratitudes my beloved mother for
her determined support on my musical journey, and my dearest partner I"ıl for always
being there when I need.

Without their support, this project would not be possible.

Burak Onur Erdem


May 2012

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University: Istanbul Technical University
Institute: Institute of Social Sciences (MIAM)
Discipline: Music (Music Theory)
Programme: Master of Arts
Advisor: Dr. Adam Roberts
Project type and Date: Final Project – 4 May 2012

ABSTRACT

Silence is a musical phenomenon. Although not treated as carefully as the sound itself
by many performers, the musical silence has its specific characteristics, effects and
meaning. For all musicians, silence is crucial, because the musical motion begins,
continues and ends with silence itself. Silence is an integral part of conducting, since
conducting is itself a silent act of music making. This paper presents a study of various
forms of silence, whether notated or not, that are utilized in music, concentrating on
choral performance and conducting. With this paper, my goal is to demonstrate how the
categorizations of silence may help to facilitate a deeper appreciation of music and
improve the quality of performance.

Keywords: silence, musical silence, rest, pause, choral conducting, choral performance

! #!
Üniversite: !stanbul Teknik Üniversitesi
Enstitü Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü (MIAM)
Anabilim Dalı: Müzik (Müzik Teorisi)
Program: Yüksek Lisans
Danı"man: Dr. Adam Roberts
Tez türü ve Tarihi: Bitirme Projesi – 4 Mayıs 2012

ÖZET

Sessizlik, müzikal bir olgudur. Ço#u icracı tarafından sesin kendisi kadar özenli bir ilgi
görmese de, müziksel sessizli#in kendine has özellikleri, etkileri ve anlamı söz
konusudur. Sessizlik, tüm müzisyenler için çok önemli bir noktayı ifade eder, zira
müziksel hareket sessizlikle ba"lar, devam eder ve son bulur. Sessizlik, "efli#in
ayrılmaz bir parçasıdır, çünkü "eflik özünde sessiz bir müzik yapma "eklidir. Bu proje,
notaya geçirilse de geçirilmese de, sessizli#in müzikte kullanılan farklı çe"itleri üzerine
bir çalı"mayı sunar. Çalı"mada koro icrası ve "efli#i göz önünde bulundurulmu"tur. Bu
proje ile amacım, sessizli#in kategorizasyonlarının müzi#i daha derinden anlamamıza
imkan tanıdı#ını ve icra kalitesini artırdı#ını göstermektir.

Anahtar Kelimler: Sessizlik, müziksel sessizlik, es, sus, koro "efli#i, koro icrası

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Table of Contents

Page

Acknowledgments...........................................................................................................iv
Abstract............................................................................................................................v
Özet..................................................................................................................................vi
Table of Contents..........................................................................................................vii
List of Examples...........................................................................................................viii
List of Figures...............................................................................................................viii
Contents of the Compact Disc.......................................................................................ix
1. Introduction.................................................................................................................1
2. Thoughts on Silence....................................................................................................5
3. Musical Silence............................................................................................................8
3.1. Silence before and after Music.......................................................................... 8
3.1.1 Silence before the Music.............................................................................9
3.1.2 Silence after the Music...............................................................................11
3.2 Silence within the Music....................................................................................14
3.2.1 A Perspective through the Literature.........................................................14
3.2.2 An Approach to the Characteristics of Musical Silence............................18
a) Unpackin the Boundaries: Transitional or Closural Silence..............18
b) The Natural Pause: Breathing Silence................................................20
c) Interruption in Two Ways: Relieving or Tense Silence......................21
d) Text as a Musical Tool: Textual Silence.............................................23
e) The Effect of Articulation: Localized Silent Spots.............................24
3.2.3 Evaluation of Musical Examples................................................................25
a) Rests....................................................................................................25
b) Breathing Points and Fermatas............................................................37
c) Rests with a Fermata...........................................................................41
d) Nuances of Letters and Effects to the Transition to Silence...............43
i. Basic Functions of Letters......................................................44
ii. Transition to Silence...............................................................46
e) Articulation Markings.........................................................................50
f) Intermissions between Sections and Movements................................53
4. Conclusion..................................................................................................................57
Bibliography...................................................................................................................59
Discography....................................................................................................................63
Appendices.....................................................................................................................65

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List of Examples
Example 1. Relieving Silence in Bruckner’s Locus Iste.................................................27
Example 2. Tense Silence in Bruckner’s Christus Factus Est........................................29
Example 3. Transitional Silence in Brahms’ Nachtwache I...........................................30
Example 4. Breathing Silence in Poulenc’s O Magnum Mysterium..............................32
Example 5. Series of tense silences in a row in Uçarsu’s Yeniden.................................34
Example 6. Breathing silence and textual silence in Bach’s Jesu, meine Freude..........39
Example 7. Closural silence in Brahms’ Das Mädchen.................................................40
Example 8. Last measures of Brahms’ Rosmarin and Waldesnacht..............................42
Example 9. Rest with a fermata in the last measure of Brahms’ Das Mädchen............43
Example 10. Breathing silence and functions of letters in Sisask’s Omnis Una...........45
Example 11. Edged transition to silence in Brahms’ Nachtwache I..............................47
Example 12. Smooth transition to silence in Rheinberger’s Abendlied.........................48
Example 13. Smooth transition to silence in Baran’s Eylül Sonu..................................49
Example 14. Localized silent spots in Sisask’s Laudate Dominum...............................51
Example 15. Localized silent spots in Brahms’ Nachtwache I......................................52
Example 16. Closural silence in Herzog’s Kyrie...........................................................54
Example 17. Transitional silence in Bach’s Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden.................55
Example 18. Transitional silence in Bach’s Matthäuspassion......................................56

List of Figures
Figure 1. Waveform of the edged transition to silence in Brahms’ Nachtwache I........46
Figure 2. Waveform of the smooth transition to silence in Rheinberger’s
Abendlied.........................................................................................................................48
Figure 3. Waveform of the smooth transition to silence in Baran’s Eylül Sonu............50
Figure 4. Waveform of the localized silent spots in Sisask’s Laudate Dominum..........51
Figure 5. Waveform of the Localized silent spots in Brahms’ Nachtwache I................53

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Contents of the Compact Disc
Track 1. Anton Bruckner – “Locus Iste” (Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Chor der
Bayerischen Rundfunks, Eugen Jochum) [2:44-3:47, Mm. 38-49]
Track 2. Anton Bruckner – “Christus Factus Est” (Stuttgart Kammerchor, Frieder Bernius)
[3:44-4:32, Mm. 51-62]
Track 3. Johannes Brahms – “Nachtwache I” (King’s Singers) [0:59-1:25, Mm. 13-17]
Track 4. Francis Poulenc – “O Magnum Mysterium” (RIAS Kammerchor, Marcus Creed)
[0:00-0:23, Mm. 1-5]
Track 5. Francis Poulenc – “O Magnum Mysterium” (Netherlands Chamber Choir, Eric
Ericson) [0:00-0:23, Mm. 1-5]
Track 6. Francis Poulenc – “O Magnum Mysterium” (Robert Shaw Festival Singers, Robert
Shaw) [0:00-0:20, Mm. 1-5]
Track 7. Hasan Uçarsu – “Yeniden” (Ankara TRT Gençlik Korosu) [0:58-1:41, Mm. 39-62]
Track 8. Johann Sebastian Bach – “Jesu, meine Freude” (Stuttgart Kammerchor, Frieder
Bernius) [0:00-0:44, Mm. 1-7]
Track 9. Johannes Brahms – “Das Mädchen“ (Stuttgart Kammerchor, Frieder Bernius) [0:57-
1:36, Mm. 21-33]
Track 10. Johannes Brahms – “Rosmarin” (RIAS Kammerchor, Marcus Creed) [1:33-1:55,
Mm. 5-9]
Track 11. Johannes Brahms – “Waldesnacht” (RIAS Kammerchor, Marcus Creed) [3:01-3:51,
Mm. 17-25]
Track 12. Johannes Brahms – “Das Mädchen“ (Stuttgart Kammerchor, Frieder Bernius) [2:12-
2:30, Mm. 57-60]
Track 13. Urmas Sisask – “Omnis Una” (Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Paul Hillier)
[0:00-0:26, Mm. 1-10]
Track 14. Johannes Brahms – “Nachtwache I” (King’s Singers) [1:55-2:33, Mm. 23-29]
Track 15. Josef Rheinberger – “Abendlied” (Stuttgart Kammerchor, Frieder Bernius) [2:41-
3:21, Mm. 42-49]
Track 16. $lhan Baran – “Eylül Sonu” (Rezonans, Burak Onur Erdem) [1:35-1:53, Mm. 32-34]
Track 17. Urmas Sisask – “Laudate Dominum” (The Chamber Choir Eesti Project, Anne-Lies
Treimann) [1:04-1:47, Mm. 46-80]
Track 18. Franz Herzog – “Kyrie” (Vienna Chamber Choir, Michael Grohotolsky) [1:03-1:43,
Mm. 36-48]
Track 19. Johann Sebastian Bach – “Matthäuspassion” (Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and
Choir, Ton Koopman) [0:50-1:22, No.72 mm. 10-12, No.73 mm. 1-6]

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1. Introduction

As a choral conductor, through years, I had the opportunity to work with the great
choirmasters of my era. Every conducting teacher has his or her own style and
understanding of music. In conducting classes I have attended, teachers presented
incredibly interesting musical ideas to the students. There are so many tiny details,
which contribute to a perfect performance: The quality of the timbre, the intensity of the
dynamics, stylistic characteristics, phrasing and many other points. There are infinite
ways to approach to the sound and elaborate it. The sound is mostly the concentration
point of the musicians. At the end, music has to do with sound. However, there is more
than that, which not all musicians consider. That is, the musical silence, one of the most
fascinating aspects of music.

The silence in music can be an extremely effective way of expression. Eventually, it is a


secret weapon of the performer. It can have different characteristics, which are to be
examined in this paper. Silence may hold tension or may symbolize resolution.
Sometimes it implies a hidden crescendo, other times it refreshes the memory of the
listener for the beginning of a new section. Although silence is mostly engaged with
expectation, it can also mean closure for a phrase or simply contribute to a melodic
structure. No need to mention, silence before and after the music are as important as the
sound itself. Theoretically, the different characteristics of silence arise the idea of
different categories of musical silence, and in this paper, I attempt to categorize
different experiences of silence.

Conducting, as a silent way of music making, presents an interesting case, other than
performing with a musical instrument or singing. The conductor alone will not produce
any sound. It is the art of bringing musicians to perform together. That is why a
conductor cannot actually practice alone, in the way a pianist or a singer does. He/she
needs the ensemble to sing or play along. So, the art of conducting has a special
connection to silence. Although the performers make sounds, the conductor is always
silent. Therefore, the silent moments in music are exact spots, where the conductor
faces his/her own act of performing. Ther meaning of silence should be
especially interesting for a musician, who makes music without producing sound. After
all, a conductor is the one who gives a silent energetic input to the performers, which is
then interpreted by them as a sound.

Also practically, performers use silence in various ways. Looking at how performers
experience the silent moments in music, one may come up with common features of
musical performances with regard to those moments. An example could be the tension
in the hands of a conductor, when the piece finishes. Another one could be the sway in
the body of a pianist during a long rest in a sonata. Thus, silence can also take many
physical forms in the body of the performer, which is quite interesting from a
conductor’s point of view, since conducting implies the realization of the music with
non-verbal gestures of the body.

Although silence has always been used in music, it is important to mention that specific
composers directly attracted attention to it. One is, among others, John Cage with his
famous 4’ 33’’. In this very piece of music, the pianist comes up to the stage, opens the
fall of the piano and stands still for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. That happens to be the
musical work. It is often said that John Cage emphasized the surrounding sounds of a
concert hall setting, which is not often noticed by the listener. Regarded as a musical
experience, John Cage’s work brought about many questions on silence, not answered
before. As Kyle Gann suggests, it is hard to resist the idea that the concert hall of the
first performance of the piece has been chosen carefully, considering the rural nature
around. That brought possibilities of nature sounds to interfere with the silent moments
in the piece, rather than traffic and machinery of an urban area. (Gann 2010: 28, as cited
in Branden 2010: 2) The goal of making the audience listen to the existing sounds
should not be undermined.

Being discussed widely after its first performance for many years, 4’ 33’’ was a
milestone in 20th century to attract the attention of the listener to the concept of silence.
What John Cage has achieved is not to emphasize the absence of sound. Rather, he
guided the audience to listen more carefully to the actual sounds in the environment,
that is, the concert hall, in this setting. Now, these sounds, which were in the
background for hundreds of years, were brought in the foreground: The noise in the
background, the own breathing of the audience, some possible whispering, etc. It is
always interesting to get into the dilemma of defining silence as the absence of sound,
because eventually there is always sound in what we call silence, just like in this
example. Larry J. Solomon stated clearly that Cage’s work is actually not silent at all.
Rather, it is full of unintentional sounds. He actually defined silence as the absence of
intention, or the turning off of our awareness. (Cage 1992: 164, as cited in Solomon
1998) His perception of silence changed drastically after his visit to an anechoic
chamber in 1951, where he heard sounds although he was expecting to experience
absolute silence. After being told that these sounds were coming from his own nervous
system and blood circulation, he realized that there is no absolute silence. That was the
idea leading him to his 4’ 33’’. (Cage 1961: 8) According to Voegelin, Cage’s interest
in silence lies in establishing every sound within the musical register, which actually
implies the existence of sounds within the concept of silence. (2010: 99) This
understanding of silence is also demonstrated in another work of Cage, One3, which has
the same idea like 4’ 33’’ but also electronically amplifying the sound of the hall and
the audience with the help of the sound system built in the concert hall. Cage’s music
could be seen as an extreme case of pointing out silence. But it is very important in
showing the significance of silence as a way of redirecting our attention. Nevertheless,
the musical silence, which is to be analyzed in this paper, is much more detailed than
this avant-garde experience of 1950s. Still, this piece holds a remarkable place on
studies of silence and its meaning is likely to be discussed in a deeper way each time
one listens to a performance.

There are many studies on musical silence conducted by music theorists. Silence has not
only been analyzed musically, but also studies on language and speech emphasize its
usage in the everyday practice. Frieda Goldman-Eisler analyzed the pauses in speech
and the natural cessations in the language had its own meaning. (1972: 112) Norwid
(1960) mentioned that silence is an indisputable part of speech. (as cited by Lissa,
1964: 444) Not to forget, philosophy and theology has also dealt with silence many
times. Maltz shows that Quakers, a religious movement, emphasized the importance of
silence of inner religious experience in contrast to superficial talk. (1985: 113) It is
important to mention that silence necessitates a careful examination, because as
Jaworski states, silence is an extremely ambiguous form of communication. (1993: 85)
Therefore, implications of silence can possibly be interpreted in different ways.
Approaches to silence from different disciplines will be relevant to our study,
considering their effects to our understanding of musical silence. Concentrating on
music, theories and categorizations of silence will be reviewed in the next sections.
Critiques of them and relevant musical examples will follow. Nevertheless, my initial
aim is not to present a brand new theory of musical silence. It is rather to grasp many
different approaches to come up with a comprehensive understanding of silence in
choral performance and conducting. At the end, the aim of this study is to emphasize
how the silent moments are of extraordinary importance in music and that their effects
should never be underestimated, and furthermore, to articulate what these effects are.
The theory and the concepts will be followed by an evaluation of musical examples,
which can also be listened in the CD recordings.
2. Thoughts on Silence

Oxford English Dictionary, among others, defines silence as the complete absence of
sound. 1 It is rather interesting for a concept to be defined by the absence of anything.
That would mean, silence is approached from the perspective of sound, or expressed
more technically, it is the negation of sound. The same is also valid vice versa. Just like
the case that silence can only be defined with regard to the sound, sound can also occur
merely over a silent basis. Thus, sound and silence are by definition bound together,
like day and night.

Nevertheless, we should not forget that these concepts are always relative to each other.
The late sunset can be perceived darker than the day, but it is actually brighter than the
midnight. The same idea applies to sound and silence. A quiet whispering in the concert
hall may be considered silent in comparison to the sounds of the city, but it may be
disturbing in a classical concert hall setting. However, more than that, the interesting
part about this analogy is that both include elements of its counterpart. The day is never
fully bright. There are shadows, maybe clouds, or different colors. Similarly, the night
also involves light in itself. One may perceive a space fully dark in the night, whereas it
may turn out that there are many things to see when the eyes are used to the darkness.
Turning back to sound and silence, the crucial point we want to make is that silence
contains sound in it, and vice versa. As in the example of John Cage’s 4’ 33’’, the piece
about silence is eventually not silent at all, considering all the different noises and
sounds in the environment. Correlatively, there are also elements and tastes of silence in
the sound. They are inseparable from this point of view.

That leads us to the idea that silence is not an absolute concept, but a relative one, which
contains different levels and layers. As Zofia Lissa argues, there is never absolute
silence, even in the nature. (1964: 445) Furthermore, silence also has a lot to do with the
human perception. Elisabeth Hellmuth Margulis puts forward the concept of perceived
silence, which does not necessarily require acoustical silence.

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1
“Silence”. Oxford English Dictionary. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/silence (accessed 12 April 2012)
(2007: 247) The threefold relationship between perceived, acoustical and notated
silence will be examined under the next section on musical silence, but it is important to
note that the perception of silence can vary according to the surrounding events of the
environment we are in.

Silence is meaningful. This is expressed exactly the same way by William J. Samarin,
as he continues saying that silence is an absence with a function, like the zero in
mathematics. (1965: 115) Silence has particularly crucial meanings in some cultures.
That is to be seen by Ron Scollon’s statement about how a silent moment may indicate
failure in the speech within an American context, (1985: 26) whereas Senko K.
Maynard mentions that Japanese culture is skewed toward silence (1997: 153). Indeed,
silence is an important part of Eastern cultures, especially considering religious rituals.
Explaining the Tibetan Buddhist meditation mahamudra, Brown and Thurman write
that cutting off the spoken word and recitation, namely silence, makes the one intensely
aware of mental chatter. (2006: 172) This idea of the ability of silence to make the mind
more aware shows that it has a direct relationship with the human perception. This
sensitivity in the perception can be true for both to physical sounds and to mental
activity. Thus, it would not be wrong to conclude that silence brings about a more
careful way of listening. Listening to both quiet and loud sounds has to do with silence
(Voegelin 2010: 100). If silence is strongly related to the act of listening, then it is not a
surprise that it is used for generating a more intensive concentration in both speech and
music.

The listening factor also brings about the idea that silence is strongly bound to the
perception. As mentioned before, according to the context, we may perceive the
existence of sounds as silence. If there is a gap between the sound flow we were focused
on, we would perceive a silent spot, although there may be other layers of sound in the
background. Furthermore, it is also important to note that all perception about sounds is
connected to our brain functions. To be able to actually hear a sound; the information
goes through our ears and processed by the brain. So, to hear something, means that the
brain has done the relevant processing and we have perceived the sound. That brings
another approach to silence. Consider somebody sleeping in a noisy room. In the sleep,
although the ears are active, the brain does not process the sound so that we do not
perceive what we have heard. Thus, no matter how much noise there is, a sleeping
person may experience silence at that moment. On the other hand, one may be in a
relatively silent room but hear non-existing sounds in a dream period. These, being
extreme points of thinking about silence, are nevertheless very helpful in emphasizing
the significance of human perception.

Overall, considering silence is not the absence of sounds and it is rather a state of
perception, we end up with the idea that its definition should be refined carefully.
Throughout this study, it should be also kept in mind that silence is closely related to
listening and concentration, which eventually results in characteristic effects of the
phenomenon. With all this information, it can be argued that in music silence is likely to
have its own functions, which will be examined in the next sections.
3. Musical Silence

3.1 Silence before and after the Music

Considering the exact location where silence occurs in the music, one comes up with
three different types in terms of timing: Silence before the music, after the music and
within the music. The first and the second can be explained generally and they are more
likely to be discussed under aesthetical questions. Some of these potential questions will
be addressed in the next sections. Nevertheless, our initial aim in this study will be the
last category, which are the instances of silence happening within the music. This
category can be discussed further with regard to the musical norms such as dynamics,
implied harmonies, rhythmic accuracy and interpretative qualities. Before going on with
this discussion, we can summarize the first two categories briefly and name some of the
possible aesthetical issues.

The common point of the first two categories, namely, silence before and after the
music, is that they are both moments, which are not written in the score. Here, one may
also think of some controversial cases. In some pieces, the composer writes a rest right
in the beginning of the piece. That is mostly to establish the right timing in the meter,
when the music begins. Similarly, sometimes we see both short and long rests at the end
of the pieces. Musically, these may have very significant meanings. Although in such
situations, notation is used for the silence before and after the music, we will
nevertheless deal with these examples under the heading of silence within the music,
since they represent a musical idea written in the score. On the other hand, the questions
of silence before and after the music are more likely to be examined aesthetically,
regardless of the notation itself.

The paper will first go over some thoughts about silence before and after the music,
which does not happen within the duration of the actual musical period. That could be a
short introduction for us to familiarize ourselves with the idea of dichotomy of sound
and silence in the practical examples. After that, our initial aim is to go on to the
occurrence of the silence in the period within the music.
3.1.1. Silence before the Music

In most performances, especially in classical music, it is assumed that there is a layer of


silence under the musical texture itself. That means silence is a prerequisite to the
music. There should be a space for the sound to come in. As pointed out by Richard C.
Littlefield, silence can be interpreted as a frame for the musical work. He found the
musical silence similar to a picture frame. (1996) If we assume the metaphor of a
painting for music, silence would be the frame surrounding it. The intensity of that
frame changes in different contexts. The level of silence could be changing according to
the genre of the music performed. Nobody would expect the same decibel level before a
violin recital, compared to a rock concert. Nevertheless, even in a rock concert, the
sounds before the performance -all the talking, the noises in the streets, etc.- are actually
considered silence, in its context. However, considering any classical orchestral and
choral concert setting, we are likely to imagine a silent upbeat of the conductor before
the music starts. It is such an established tradition, that even a quiet talking or shy
coughs can be considered rather disturbing in such a setting. In a classical concert,
silence is an indispensable condition of music making. Yet, it is good to remember that
the perception of silence can be varying according to the context. Although we demand
a total silent beginning, the room is considered musically silent, no matter how many
sirens pass the hall, if the performers are not playing. (Margulis 2007: 245)

However, concentrating on rather aesthetic aspects of silence before the music, one may
not come up with a straightforward conclusion easily. Here, we should probably
distinguish between recorded music and live performance. In recorded music of an a
cappella choir, there are mostly less than one second silence before the music. The
information of sound directly goes to the ear and the music begins to play. Whereas, in
a live conducted performance, there is another factor, which is the upbeat of the
conductor. The conductor’s upbeat is mostly one beat before the actual music begins,
given according to the tempo of the piece. While conductors tend to give different styles
of upbeats, the norm is generally to show the singers the exact moment of time, when
they should begin to sing. So, the upbeat is a movement of the conductor, which comes
before the music. Furthermore, the upbeat is mostly accompanied by a simultaneous
breathing of the singers, who prepare to the note they will sing in the next beat.
Therefore, it is no surprise, that the upbeat is sometimes called “the preparation beat”. It
is stated in many conducting books that the preparation beat carries all the information
for the downbeat next to it. Don V. Moses expressed this idea in the following way:

The orchestra needs to know –to see– what sort of energy they should use to begin
a phrase. They need to be able to see where the peak of that phrase will be, and
what sort of cadence they will have to provide at the end. To show them these
images, always one beat ahead, you must have that image in your own ears one
beat early, convey it in the gesture you are making at that moment, and keep
going. (Moses 2004: 35)
Whereas Moses writes also about ongoing music, his points are particularly relevant to
beginnings of musical pieces. So, the silence at the beginning carries the characteristics
of the music, which is about to be performed. With regard to the silence before the
music, we ask ourselves the following question: Is the upbeat of the conductor (and the
quiet breathing of the singers) included in the actual music or not? Formally, it should
not be counted as music, since it is not written in the score, it is not to be heard in
recordings and it does not provide information of sound to the listener’s ear.
Nevertheless, there are also serious reasons why this particular moment of the upbeat
should be counted in music. First, the upbeat of the conductor carries all the
characteristics of the music in itself. It is often said that a good conductor can deliver all
the information of the coming music with the upbeat. That means that the musical
information is actually hidden in the upbeat. Secondly, thinking of a concert setting, the
conductor’s upbeat is to be seen with the eye. It is true that the audience does not hear
any particular musical sound at that moment, but they see the movement of the
conductor, which is to carry the information of the first beat of the music. Considering
that we are not only listening with our ears, but also take musical information by seeing
a performer, the moment of the upbeat should not be underestimated. Thirdly, both an
orchestral group and a choral ensemble make a preparing movement in that instance.
Singers breathe, violin players raise their bows, flautists move with their instruments.
Therefore, there is a serious motion going on at that particular moment before the start
of the actual music. Whether it should be counted within the music or not, can be a
question of further discussion. Nevertheless, it is true that the flow of energy between
the performers and the conductor begin right before the music and a musical motion
starts right there. Although, a formal definition would not include this specific moment
in music, it should not be forgotten that without an upbeat there would be no music, just
as there won’t be any sound without the breath before it.
It is also interesting to distinguish between two different kinds of upbeats in the opening
of the music. One of them is a full upbeat, where the music begins on the beat. The
second one is a syncopated upbeat, where the sound firstly comes in between the beats.
With regard to the silence before the music, the syncopation makes a real difference in
human perception. The syncopated beginning of a piece assumes the listener to make
the orientation of the ongoing beat pattern. The same naturally applies also to the
performers. That is why syncopated upbeats mostly necessitate more than one
preparation beats. The extra beats before the music is needed for the singers to orientate
themselves within the beat pattern. With the help of those extra passive preparation
beats, the performers can easily start singing exactly where the syncopation takes place
in between the beats. This tiny difference of locating the first note in between the beats
has a specific impact on the silence before the music. Clifton argues that the syncopated
opening is a feeling of arriving a bit earlier or later than scheduled. He calls the time
before the music whether as a contraction or an extension. (1976: 170) This is a proof
that a syncopated opening creates a different perception on the listener. Other than
beginning on the beat, syncopation assumes an extra beat before the music, which is
heard in the inner ear. Seeing the conductor visually would make this more prominent.
This effect of a more perceptible upbeat in the case of syncopation gives a special
significance to the silence before such pieces. It can be said that these silences are more
active and more in motion, depending on the rhythmical precision and accent of the
syncopation.

3.1.2. Silence after the Music

The moment, where the music ends, is very similar to the point, where the music starts.
The silence after the music is also not written in the score and by definition, not counted
as musical information. Even the concept we use for defining this particular moment
tells us the formal definition, as we say, ‘after the music’. Thus, the music is thought to
end at the instance where the sound stops. However, this may not be a satisfying
conclusion to the discussion of silence after the music.

There is almost unanimous consensus among the conductors that the music does not
end, when the sound stops. Whereas some conductors apply this idea instinctively,
some of them also express this necessity explicitly. World-renowned choral conductor
from Austria, Johannes Prinz, teaches his students to continue with the flow of the
music at least 1-2 seconds after the sound stops. He believes that the tension of music
should not be dropped immediately. 2 That is actually, why most conducting schools use
very open motions when stopping the music. It is discouraged to stop the music by
closing the hands or directly dropping the hands to a relaxed position, as Brock
McElheran also points out in his book about conducting technique. (2004: 73) Rather,
even after the sound stops, the conductor continues to ‘hold’ the sound for a short time.
This time period can vary according to the conductor’s choice, but its existence is a
necessity. Some conducting schools even encourage the conductors to go on with a
flowing motion at the end of the music. In this type of conducting, the sound stops but
the hands of the conductors continue to move gently.

The essential question arises here: Is that particular moment of silence after the last
sound included in music or not? Considering the last motion of the conductor, ‘holding’
the music or the tension, we can also claim that the audience is seriously affected by this
silent moment. It is mostly true that the audience also stands still at that particular
second of silence, depending to their sensitivity to the performance and their
concentration. There are even people among the audience, who are extremely disturbed
by hearing another sound at the specific moment of silence after the music. The
Guardian writer Tom Service shared such an experience in his newspaper blog, stating
that he really lost the feeling of the ongoing musical motion, when an enthusiastic man
among the audience shouted ‘Bravi’ just as the music has ended.

It's music that ends with a huge final chord, a moment of D major apotheosis
that's seemingly drawn out into the infinite. The silence afterwards was a chance
to bask in the afterglow of the symphony's huge, cosmic architecture and the
Berlin Philharmonic's equally cosmic sound.
But it was a moment of dizzying collective rapture that was all too predictably
ruined by some eejit in the Royal Festival Hall shouting "bravi!" – from one of the
boxes, I'm pretty sure – before any of us, including the orchestra, had the chance
to come down to earth again. (Service 2011)
It is rather interesting, how Service perceived the silence after the music. So, not only
the conductor’s intention to hold the tension, but the audience reaction to applaud a few
seconds later demonstrate that the silence after the music is a very important necessity
in classical music. Also in recordings, there are usually gaps between the different
musical pieces, which seem to be a need for the musical ear.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2
Taken from a choral conducting masterclass in Graz, hosted by Kunstuniversitaet Graz and Österreichischer Chorverband in 2009.
Johannes Prinz is a professor of choral conducting in Graz and he has conducted the famous Wiener Kammerchor for a long time.
There are even theories of singing, which propose that the sound of the last syllable
would be projected to the audience in a better way, if the singer does not immediately
closes his/her mouth after the note. Especially if the syllable ends with a vowel, the
resonance in the head of the singer continues to exist for a very tiny while, when the
singer stays with an open mouth. Colin Baldy writes that the body continues to resonate
until the singer stops passing air over to vocal folds to produce sound. (2010: 34) This
leads us to the idea that leaving the vocal cords open can physically help the sound to
continue to resonate for a very short period, even after the air has been stopped. We can
imagine the same effect with a wind instrument like flute. A flautist also holds the flute
in in the air for a while after the breath has stopped. The flautist does not drop the
instrument instantly when the sound ends. The same concept applied to the human
body, considering the whole body as the musical instrument. So, the general idea is the
following: Although the actual sound ends, the imagination of the music continues and
this physically has a resonance effect.

Also acoustical reasons are to be considered in this discussion, since the varying echoes
of a dry hall and a big cathedral would make a real difference in the ending of music.
Talking about the silence after the music, it is sometimes the case that the echo of the
last chord goes on for some seconds. This situation does not constitute a real silence,
although the actual sound production has ended. In both ways, namely with or without
echo, it is clear that the flow of music continues for a short while after the physical
sound stops.

Here it is interesting to return to Littlefield’s concept of frame, which he argues that the
framing function of silence between movements can occur in a more efficient way,
when the silence after one movement lasts long enough. He gives the example of
Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the moment after the introduction. If the silent moment
right before the “Danse des adolescentes” is too little, there may be no enough time for
the music before to leave the memory, which results in a poor framing of the musical
picture. (Littlefield 1996) Nevertheless, the silence between the movements can be
more concretely analyzed in the next section of silence within music, since it does not
really count as silence after the music, if we assume the musical work continues with
the next movements.
3.2. Silence within the Music

The category of silence within the music contains the silent moments happening after
the first musical sound has started and before the last musical sound has been heard.
However, more than that, I would also include any notated silence in this category,
namely, a possible rest in the beginning of the piece or at the end of the piece. Here, by
definition, music means the realization of what is notated in the score. So, whereas the
silence before the music does not count in this category, a notated silence counts.
Despite being only practically, it is clear that this distinction is also necessary to have
precisely constructed concepts.

Here, it is important to return to Margulis’ concepts of acoustical, perceived and notated


silence. Although we defined silence within music as a category, which should be
notated and seen in the score, not all the silent moments within the duration of the
music can be notated. Notated silence normally expressed by rests. Nevertheless, other
than that, many other occasions in music result in silence, which will be examined here.
For example, the end of a fermata or a transition to another section creates silent spots
in the music. Similarly, a voiceless consonant can lead to a sharp move to silence.
Whether notated or not, silence is an integral part of the duration of the actual music.
While evaluating some of these possibilities, it is important to mention that, each one of
the examples have their own implications. Nevertheless, these will be a manifestation of
concrete musical situations, which lead to the silent moments.

3.2.1 A Perspective through the Literature

There are many detailed studies of musical silence, which constitute a general
framework of approaching to the topic. Most likely, because of its unique
characteristics, silence can be categorized in many different ways. Among many
aspects, its musical meaning, its notation and acoustical results, the perception of the
listener or aesthetic concerns of the composer are some of the concepts that may be
emphasized. It must be pointed out that there is no single correct way of categorizing
silence musically. Rather, each approach would have its own strong and weak points
and each will cover different aspects of this phenomenon.
In one of the early studies in 1976, Thomas Clifton divides silence in three categories:
Temporal, in registral space, and in motion. Before evaluating the first and the third
category, it is necessary to mention that the silence in registral space may as well not be
counted as silence. This is similar to Lissa’s concept of partial pause, indicating a pause
that covers one part of the orchestra only. (Lissa 1964: 448) It is doubtful to include a
rest in one part of a polyphonic setting in the concept of silence, since actually the
perception of the listener is on the ongoing sounds, not in the resting part. Therefore, it
would be more useful to move onto the other categories suggested by Clifton. To begin
with, his concept of temporal silence suggest an interesting topic, stating as following:

We can begin with a kind of silence whose main identifying trait is that of a flat,
undifferentiated, hard-edged object. This is a temporal silence not because it itself
is in motion but because its principal task is to effect a temporal experience
precisely by cutting off a succession of events. The silence is a stop, a caesura. A
word like "flat" is used to indicate the silence's lack of significant shape or
gesture; "undifferentiated" refers to the absence of pulse or respiration within the
silence; and "hard-edged" describes the sharp contrast presented by the sequence
of sound/silence/ensuing sound. (Clifton 1976: 164)
Here, it is argued that the temporal silence stops the flow of the time during the music,
whereas the category of silence in motion would suggest a continuing run of the musical
phrase. The temporal character has much to do with the break of the anticipation. In
contrast, his category of silence in motion suggests no gapping tendency. There silence
functions as a gesture to bridge the gap between points of sound. (Clifton 1976: 178)
Returning to the concept of temporal silence, Clifton’s example to this phenomenon
with the silent moment in Debussy’s Prelude to “Afternoon of a Faun” can be
explanatory, where he claims the pulse is stopped shortly, as though the music is
holding its breath. (1976: 166) This understanding coincides with some other writers,
like Ellen T. Harris bringing in the concept of breath in the following way:

No listener, even one not caught up in the preceding vortex, can fail to come to
attention here. When the silence is fully embraced in performance and not rushed,
it becomes a moment of huge anticipation, during which the whole audience tends
to catch its breath and hold it expectantly, united with the performers in
collectively preparing for the downbeat on the final “ha-le-lu-jah.” (Harris 2005:
521)
It seems that the normal breathing can be a symbol of continuing pulsation, whereas
holding the breath implies the interruption of this ongoing pulse. This, in turn, creates
an atmosphere of big anticipation, either because the expected event did not happen or
because the following event cannot be estimated in music. Lissa even brings this effect
of breath one point further and writes about the silence between the movements of one
piece, pointing out that their effect happens in two-ways:

The breathing spells divide, but they also unite, the movements as one follows the
other: they make room for previous sounds to ring out in our imagination, and
they relieve the emotion accumulated during the preceding movement, preparing
the listener for the reception of the approaching part. A well-measured-out
breathing space between the movements is of great importance in the art of
performance. (Zofia 1964: 446)
Therefore, the effect of silence does not only count within the music, but also it has a
specific role between the movements, as well as before and after the music. This two-
fold relationship, uniting and dividing the sections, is not peculiar to the silence
between the movements. Examples of that can also be seen in rests, which fulfill a
boundary function. The boundary silence can be explained as spaces between two
musical passages, which in turn both connect and separate them. Margulis has written
about important characteristics of boundary silence.

Boundary silences, when not exaggeratedly lengthened, are unmarked compared


with the other types of silences described in this article; they leave room
unobtrusively for the digestion of the preceding chunk and for the resetting of
expectations to a more global level. (Margulis 2007: 253)
What we can draw out from those findings is that silence serves for various functions.
Here, we may remember Clifton’s description of temporal silence as being “flat”, which
can be challenged by the different characteristics of silent spots. The physical shape of
silence may be flat, which actually does not happen to be like this always, because of a
perceived silence can be drawn out from different possibilities acoustical inputs like the
reverberation of music or the interference of outer sounds. Other than that, the meaning
of silence can never be interpreted as flat, since this word implies a lack of a significant
shape, which is not the case considering its internal implications. Silence often has a
characteristic meaning and although it sounds flat, it is not. Marcel Cobussen also
criticized Clifton by attracting too much attention to the relationship between silence
and sound, leaving the autonomy of silence unrecognized. That means, silence does not
only serve the sounds surrounding it, but rather it may have a meaning by itself, thus
having a significant shape in all different examples.
Another important concept Margulis coined is the interruptive silence, which is in some
ways similar to Clifton’s temporal category. The interruption again has to do with the
break of the musical expectation. Though, this term focuses on the progression of the
musical idea only, whereas the temporal character of silence would also include the
concept of boundary silence in itself. Margulis writes about the silence as interruption in
the following way:

When silence intervenes before the achievement of closure, the raw fact of
interruption is often its most noticeable characteristic; before any other
interpretation can be developed, the sense of interruption is itself dramatically
foregrounded. (Margulis 2007: 253)
The interruptive character of silence is not to be underestimated. Harris’ example of the
last part of the Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, where there is a two beats long rest,
reminds of the interruptive silence. (Harris 2005: 522) This section is characterized by
the incredibly tension accumulated from the beginning of the whole piece in that
specific moment of silence. Actually for a musical interruption, not only silence, but
also dynamic contrasts can be easily used. Considering the relativeness of silence, we
can argue that a very soft pianissimo creates a layer very close to a silent moment.
Metzer mentions that extremely low dynamics give us qualities of silence like stillness,
hush, and fragility, if not silence itself. (2006: 334) It is also possible that outside
sounds will not disturb silence, if the specific requirements for silence are fulfilled. A
very important distinction is made by Margulis on notated, perceived and acoustical
silence. A notated silence may not be acoustically silent, because there may be other
sounds than music itself. But if the listener follows the music, this would be a perceived
silence, even if there were acoustical sounds in the room. On the other hand, a perceived
silence is not always the result of a notated silence in the score. There are also forms of
silence, which are not expressed in the score. (Margulis 2007: 251)

Considering different layers of silence, there may also be perceived silences, where
there is both not acoustical and notated silence. This is the case in Liadov’s Magic Lake,
where according to Lissa, silence is depicted by very soft yet audible sounds. (1960:
453) That shows it is possible to paradoxically imply silence with written or acoustical
sound.

There, it may be interesting to concentrate on our perception to the layers of sound.


Especially in such a global age, in which different sounds are directed to people in
various spaces, the ear mostly perceives numerous levels of sounds in the daily life.
Brian Eno argues that in this age, there is the demand of compositions for different
purposes. That is why he has composed Music for Airports, which can be labeled as an
ambient music to be played in an airport setting. Eno mentions “Ambient Music must
be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in
particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting.” (1978) This particular
understanding is important in our context, because it shows that, depending on its
context, not all acoustical sounds constitute a direct stimulus to the listener. Just like in
the example of Liadov’s music, where silence is depicted by hardly audible sounds, it is
the case in the Eno that a calm background is portrayed by ambient music. He creates a
musical atmosphere, not interfering with the foreground sounds, which generates a
different and deeper layer in the perception of the listener. This means, sounds may
remain below the level of focused attention. It is relevant to the argument that
acoustical absence of sounds (which is only possible to a certain level) is not a necessity
for an experience of silence. That coincides with the idea that the composers sometimes
use the reverberation of the halls or uses extreme dynamics for contrasting effects.

3.2.2. An Approach about the Characteristics of Musical Silence

As seen in the section before, there are many ways to approach and categorize the
musical silence. Studies refer to different functions of silence. What we need to
emphasize in this context to maintain a more comprehensive understanding of musical
silence, is the harmonic and melodic relationship in the sections before and after the
silent spots in the music.

Considering the complex relationship between sound and silence, I would take some of
the concepts coined by other theorists as a starting point to my approach. By elaborating
those concepts, I will suggest some fine adjustments to them and recommend some
basic categories of silence. These will be explained only theoretically here and will then
be evaluated with the actual musical examples in the next sections.

a) Unpacking the boundaries: Transitional or Closural Silence

When considering the boundary silence, usually its function to separate two different
sections is in the foreground. A boundary, by definition, is a line that marks the limits of
an area, or a dividing line. Therefore, its primary duty is to stand between the two
phrases or sections. As Anna Danielewicz-Betz claims, boundary silence can also frame
a performance of music and the silent breaks between movements. (1998: 107) This
may not only happen with movements, but also with musical phrases.

Looking at the boundary more carefully, we have to examine how the boundary divides
the sections. The function of the silence by limiting one musical area may be clear, but
the characteristics of this dividing process may be much more interesting. There, we
should not undermine the effect of the harmony and melody. Harmonic progressions
and melodic gestures may assist us in determining the character of the silent moment,
which serves as a boundary.

Whether a short pause between two chords or a long stop between two movements, the
boundary may imply two basic features. The first one is a transitional silence, which
suggest a continuation of the musical flow. That would be the case, especially when the
harmony before the silence is in a predominant or dominant function, which needs a
resolution. A half cadence can be a perfect spot for a transitional silence. The wish to
pass on to the next musical idea after the silent moment is mostly expressed by the
conductor with a moving gesture, rather than a fixed one. Here, moving does not
necessarily imply a motion in the hands, but it may also happen with a slight sway in
the body. The initial idea is that the half cadence necessitates an ongoing flow of
motion.

A significant characteristic of a transitional silence is that mostly serves the function of


a comma in the prose within the musical flow. Like a comma, this kind of a silence
generates a short break in the sentence and helps the listener to comprehend the first
part of the section. In other words, although stopping the continuation of the musical
sounds, this silence opens a door to the next bit of music, which can be seen as a
continuation to the progression. Therefore, it also has the function of connecting two
different parts of music together.

In contrast, a closural silence, although having a boundary function again, will not
imply a continuation of the same musical idea. This is mostly the case between the
movements of rather larger works. A closural silence can also happen between two
sections of the same movement, if there is no harmonic or melodic evidence of
continuation of the first part. That means, an authentic cadence most probably means a
closure. Nevertheless, not all silences after the tonic harmony would entail closure.
Similarly, also other harmonic functions than a tonic may also imply a closure, like a
mediant or a submediant in a major key. The crucial idea of a closural silence is that the
performers find an opportunity to relax for the duration of the silence, be it a boundary
between two phrases or two movements.

It may not be always the case that the end of a piece suggests a closural silence. That
seems rather contradictory, because the end is actually the closing section of a piece.
Nevertheless, that kind of situations can be seen in larger musical works, where the end
of one piece leads to the beginning of the other one. In such cases, we would call these
moments transitional silence.

Concentrating on the performance, it is clear that a closure can be expressed by the


gestures of the conductor. The musical structure, naturally, is the obvious key to
understanding a closure, but according to Donovon Caeser, tonal closure may also be
effectively communicated through facial expressions. (2009: 32) Therefore, we may
suggest that moments of transitional and closural silence would necessitate different
expressions of the conductor and different mind states of the singers. This could be a
very attractive point for further studies on actual performance practice.

Besides, it is important to add that the boundary silence does not require the existence
of a rest, notated in the score. The space between the movements, as well as the phrasal
endings may imply boundaries. Therefore, even the points of silent breaths can draw a
line between two parts of a musical piece. However, not all breathing points are
boundary silence, they must be categorized under a different heading, because local
stops can always happen within phrases too.

b) The Natural Pause: Breathing Silence

The determination of the breathing points is a significant part of the choir rehearsal.
Jean Ashworth Bartle also suggests that the conductor should mark his or her own score
with the breath marks thoroughly. (2003: 34) After all, the breath is the first thing the
choral singers experience altogether. The music begins with a breath, as discussed in the
section of silence before the music. So, throughout the course of the music, breath is
always a need for the singer.

Choral breathing has an interesting connection to silence. Assuming that no special


techniques and effects are trying to be achieved, in the conventional singing technique,
it is always positive to have a silent breath. Margaret Olson states it is eventually a
desired phenomenon that the inhalation for singing is silent. She points out that the
silence during inhalation shows that the vocal folds are open and ready for adduction.
(Olson 2010: 28) That is, also technically silence is associated with the breathing of the
choral singer, which shows us that the breathing point is another spot, where silence is
experienced in music.

In some pieces, singers breathe at varying times, which makes the breath unrecognized.
But especially in homophonic music, all the melodic parts move together at
approximately the same pace (Hyer) and the musical phrase is similar in every part,
which brings about the concept of breathing at the same time. Simultaneous breathing
of the singers results in a silent moment in the music. Of course, from an acoustical
point of view, there may not be absolute silence but the sound of the inhaling of the
singers. But it is a very interesting case, since this silence is not notated in the score.
Whereas sometimes, breathing points are expressed with a comma above the staff,
mostly it is not necessary to state it explicitly. Therefore, curiously we end up with
silent spots in the music.

It may be the case that boundaries or interruptions also coincide with breathing points.
This is a natural situation, since the stops in music mostly imply a breathing point for
the choral singer. It is not necessary to exclude our categories perfectly from each other.
Possibly, some categories may intersect. Then, it is important to analyze which function
of silence is more prominent in such specific spots. Considering the musical meaning of
silence, it seems like the harmonic relationship around the silent moments are of greater
importance than the natural fact of breathing. A breathing silence may happen at the
end of each phrase, but it may not necessarily imply a boundary or interruption. Rather,
we may conclude, boundaries and interruptions are more special cases of breathing
silence. So, this concept can be used for breathing points in the music, where silent
moments occur. Thus, this category turns out to be one with numerous examples in a
piece, being likely to happen once in a few bars.

c) Interruption in two ways: Relieving or Tense Silence

Interruption, as defined before, suggests the entrance of a silence outside the loop.
(Margulis 2007: 254) We may consider this as a break in the musical flow. Considering
the harmony, conventional music mostly has a flow towards a resolution. Schenker has
shown that by his concept of Urlinie. An enlightening approach to the interruption
could be defining it as the silence happening before the Urlinie finished. Nevertheless,
considering background graphs of Schenkerian analysis, the flow of the Urlinie may
also take multiple musical sections. In between the sections, not only interruptive but
many kinds of silence may happen. So, while although actually considering the
Schenkerian analysis would not help to determine the characteristic silence, the idea of
harmonic progression and cadence may play a role in that.

It is clear that the interruption implies an unpredictable situation, a gesture that was not
anticipated before. Interruptive silences are used as an expressive tool in the music,
whether for contrast or surprise effects. But the character of the interruption is not
always the same. Two subcategories can be one way of looking at this: Relieving and
tense silence.

Here, the concepts of relieving and tense are related to the ideas of closure and
transition. In that manner, relieving expresses the relaxation of the energy accumulated
through the measures before the interruption happened. In such a moment, the harmonic
progression and the melodic structure should not imply a wish to continue the musical
phrase. Still, it is different from closure in the following way: In relieving silence, the
same musical idea should follow after the rest. After all, that is what makes it an
interruption. Otherwise, it would as well be named as boundary, if the same musical
idea did not follow the silent spot. Similar to the closure idea, a relieving silence mostly
happens after an authentic cadence, not implying a continuation of the harmonic
progression. Again, because it is an interruption, this kind of a silence should not
indicate a total closure. Therefore, these examples are mostly seen in sections, where
the weight of the harmony has locally moved to other keys than the tonality. Whereas
some kind of a cadence or resolution happens, the continuation must return to the
original musical ideas.

In contrast, a tense silence is the exact opposite of that situation. Here, the interruption
effect is much more in the foreground. Mostly when the interruption happens in the
middle of a phrase, this implies a tense moment in the music. Tension comes from the
wish for resolution from a tonal point of view. A phrase interrupted during a dominant
harmony would certainly indicate a tense silence.
An interruption, by its character, necessitates the continuation of the musical flow by
the performers. Margulis talks about interruptive silence, stating that while helping for a
relaxation of the sound, they also do not imply closure and urge the listeners to perform
a sort of double take, checking whether the music really stopped or their ear deceived
them. (2007: 254). That shows its clear difference from a boundary, which may imply a
closure or a transition to another section.

d) Text as a Musical Tool: Textual Silence

Text is an inherent part of choral music. It is already known that speech has its own
musical characteristics. As Aniruddh D. Patel states, speech melody can convey
affective, syntactic, pragmatic, and emphatic information. There is actually music in the
language we are speaking. Thus, this fact naturally is transferred to the notion of music
making. In the performance practice, the comprehensibility of the text seems to be an
important factor. Emmons and Chase point out that words restrict the possibility of
interpretation of the music to a serious degree and generate a focus point about the
meaning of the music. Instrumental musicians, having no text, are much more open to
interpretation unless the music is clearly programmatic. (Emmons and Chase 2006: 262)
In contrast, singers have the language intrinsic to their musical experience and this
should also be transmitted to the listener.

The text includes various details, which clarify its exact way of expression in speech.
An important factor is the punctuation marks. Two most common of them are the
comma and the period. They have direct connection to the concept of silence. A comma
separates different elements of the sentence, where as a period ends the sentence. Both
of them create a space between those unlike elements, to generate a more
comprehensible expression. Other than that, various punctuation marks like a question
mark or an ellipsis imply their own specific meaning in musical practice. Furthermore,
there are also practices of each specific language, which should be taken into
consideration. For a perfect pronunciation, the emphasis of the word may be important,
as well as the exact length of the vowels and the characteristics of the consonants.

In light of these, we may suggest another category of silence, which we will name as
textual silence. This category includes the small silent moments that are performed
because of the comprehensibility of the text. A shorter vowel or a little pause after a
comma would be examples of textual silence. Thinking about the commas and periods,
one may remember the musical analogy we have done in the section on boundary
silences and their characteristics. Textual silence has a different character than
boundary, because it does not have much musical meaning. Rather, its point of
departure is the existence of the text itself. Similarly, the analogy of a half cadence to a
comma belongs to the concept of boundary silence. Here, the punctuation marks are
used in their literal meaning in text and speech.

We should also be careful not to mix effects from the text with the articulation.
Sometimes, a staccato effect may confuse us, creating a short gap between the notes. It
is important to note that articulation can be applied to any part of the music and it is a
musical device, which is also used by instrumentalists. In contrast, textual silence
necessitates the existence of special pronunciation rules or punctuation marks that result
in small silent spots. These silent spots, although being short, are very effective and
provide a strong expression of the choral work.

e) The Effect of Articulation: Localized Silent Spots

Lissa argues that staccato, spiccato, marcato, or legato are also the outcome of the
specific relationship between the sound fabric and silence. According to her approach,
staccato by shortening the duration of the written sound actually gives an effect of an
invisible rest, resulting of tiny bits of silence. (Lissa 1960: 452) Not only those four, but
also other possibilities of articulation bring about silent moments. Portato, tenuto,
martellato are examples of that. The principal characteristic of this kind of silence is that
it refers to a certain note and the type of articulation assigned to that specific note. So,
this kind of a silent spot is very localized to the particular point it is happening.
Therefore, it may be useful to call these as a localized silent spots. It has the meaning
that the usage of this silence is restricted to that note only.

Eventually, articulation markings can also be seen as implied rests 3 between the notes.
A staccato passage written with eight notes can also be interpreted as sixteenth notes
with sixteenth rests in between them. The difference would be, of course, the character

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3
A term coined by Dr. Jerfi Aji during our conversation about articulation markings and their effect in piano performence.
of staccato and that is why articulation markings are used in music, rather than only
notes and rests. But this idea of implied rests is actually very helpful in evaluating the
silent character within the articulations.

The localized silent spots have much to do with the term agogic, which is concerned
with the variations of duration. (Thiemel). Here, variations of dynamic level are less of
interest, but the time and duration seem to be more in the foreground. The agogic effects
may be determinant on the characteristics of localized silent spots, with a simultaneous
changing in the tempo. Except the quality of the articulation itself, the duration of the
silence has also much influence on the taste of the specific musical passage played with
the articulation. That is the reason why there are many different interpretations on the
staccato and other forms of articulation.

This category is not to be confused with textual silence, where localized silent spots
have only to do with the local notes themselves. It has nothing to do with the text, but
its main concern is the musical articulation. It is also clear that we talk about specific
regions in this type of silence. So, no long term effects like boundary or interruption are
to be expected here.

3.2.3. Evaluation of Musical Examples

a) Rests

The most typical form of silence in music is the rest. A rest, meaning not to play or to
sing in that specific duration, is an actual a sign of silence. Its length shows the duration
of the silence. Although there is only one kind of acoustical silence, there are many
different types of rests, with regard to the context they are happening in and the
meanings they imply.

The word “rest” is actually misleading in its etymological sense. According to Ian Bent,
to rest brings about the idea of laying aside the instrument. (1981: 792-794) This idea
totally conflicts with the concept of tension flowing throughout the music. If we
consider it from a conductor’s point of view, we come up with interesting results.
Volker Hempfling, a famous choral conducting teacher from Germany, once told in a
4
lecture that an experienced conductor does not ‘rest’ in the musical rest. Instead,

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4
Taken from a lecture in a choral conducting masterclass in Istanbul, hosted by ITU MIAM and Choral Culture Association
Istanbul in February 2012. Volker Hempfling is a professor emeritus in the Robert Schumann Hochschule für Musik und Kunst in
he/she tries to keep the tension of the music by holding his/her hands still or gently
moving them. Never does he/she relax his/her arms at that point. So, it is quite right to
criticize the meaning of the word “rest” and the actual phenomenon of rest in music.

Although implying to stop playing or singing, a rest also may not always result in
silence. Thinking very simply, there will be no silence when there is a rest in one part
but the other parts continue to play or to sing. The effect will be that the texture of the
music will be changing by dropping out some parts of the harmony and the attention of
the listener will be naturally drawn to the other parts. This coincides with the category
Clifton suggested as the silence in registral space. It is somehow interesting that he
perceives this as a form of silence, since actually in such situations there is produced
sound in the ensemble. It is possible that Clifton is considering this as silence, thinking
in local terms and concentrating only to that specific part which possesses the rest. He
argues that such a phenomenon helps the listener to hear the remaining parts and the
composer applies it to emphasize a specific part of the music. (Clifton 1976: 172)

Another possibility where the rest again does not produce silence comes from the
concept of reverberation. Acoustic reverb happens in all kinds of music. But specifically
in choral music, a reasonable level of reverb is a very desirable phenomenon. That is
why churches are preferred locations of choral performances. The structure of the
typical church gives the location a very sonorous atmosphere. Consider a choir
performing in a church and there is a short rest on the score, which is about to happen.
Probably, the exact moment of the rest will not be in total silence, but rather the
reverberation of the last chord will be still to hear in the location. If we were to analyze
these exact seconds and look at the sound waves, as Margulis did in her research, we
would see that the actual acoustical silence is not happening there. But again, as
suggested before, musically there will be a perceived silence in the conception of the
listeners and certainly of the performers. It is very interesting to note her concept of
‘seeing the rest’ here, which implies that even if there is no acoustical silence in the hall
either because of reverberation or because of outer sounds, the audience may as well see
the rest in the music and perceive that moment as silence. (Margulis 2007: 246)

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Düsseldorf and he is a teacher of choral conducting. In this masterclass, he also criticisized the conducting technique that suggests a
closing of the hands and fingers at the end of the music. He claims that such a closing gesture would not hold the necessary tension
in the silence after the music.
The reverb effect is actually much considered by choral composers. One prominent
example of this would be Anton Bruckner, who lived in the 19th century and composed
for many pieces for choirs. Being sent to a monastery in his childhood, the Austrian
composer sung in choirs for many years and has direct experience of choral
performance. It is known that Bruckner was a very devoted religious person, which
resulted in the numerous sacred compositions by him. In many of his pieces, he used
silence as an expressive means explicitly. The extent to which he is enjoys the long rests
must imply that he is keen on the outcome of the silence. That specific point of his
compositions can easily be linked to the concept of reverberation. We may look at two
well-known motets of him as examples. These will also be examples of interruptive
silences.

Both motets ‘Locus Iste, WAB 23’ and ‘Christus Factus Est, WAB 11’ enjoy a
considerable place in classical choral repertoire. Among others, the most prominent
common points of these two pieces is that they both possess a bar length rests in the
music. There is much debate among choral directors how to perform these rests in
different acoustical settings. Some choirs prefer to do the full bar rests in tempo, where
the conductor even counts the beats with his right hand. This mostly happens in
locations with a remarkable amount of reverb. On the other hand, there are also
performances in which these rests last shorter, just as a transition between the phrases.
Although this also may be an interpretation, we have to consider why Bruckner has
written these full-bar rests in tempo.

Example 1: Relieving Silence in Bruckner’s Locus Iste (Mm. 39 and 44)


To look at the picture closer, we can begin with the famous 43rd bar of the motet Locus
Iste. The rest is five beats long and directly comes after a crescendo, which lasts for
three bars. This creates an interruption effect, because suddenly the crescendo
disappears into nothing. The five beats silence precedes a pianissimo passage, again
with the same text of ‘a Deo’, which means, ‘by God’. Considering the importance
Bruckner gives to the sacred text, it is possible to interpret this moment of silence as an
attempt of the composer to create a mystical atmosphere right when the word ‘God’
arrives.

A similar silence is to be seen in the motet Christus Factus Est, but this time in the
middle of a fortissimo passage. The dynamic marking before the rest is fortissimo and
after the rest, it becomes fortississimo. The 56th bar of the piece shows again a full bar
rest, plus the one beat before, which again makes five beats. Considering the dynamics,
this time the effect of the silence cannot be merely creating a soft and holy atmosphere.
Rather, here the attractive dominant seventh chord in the 55th bar has been strengthened
by the silence before the resolution to the tonic happens. Also the high voicing of these
chords demands a truly powerful voice, which results in a big emphasis on the silence in
between them. Therefore, the empty bar indicates a tense silence in this case. In other
words, the music wants to move on and the rest is holding up the resolution. This has
exactly the effect of stretching out the time between the dominant seventh and the tonic
harmonies, by a rather long general pause. Looking at Locus Iste again, it is clearly seen
that the harmonic structure is not that prominent as the dominant - tonic progression in
Christus Factus Est. Rather, in the first piece, the harmony before the rest is a mediant
and follows with a tonic after the silence. It is also noted that the harmonic progression
to the mediant includes secondary dominants, which gives the 43th bar a local authentic
cadential character. Thus, here the rest functions as a relieving silence. The five beats
long rests do not directly connect the spots before and after them. Although being in an
unstable mediant harmony, the silence is not as intensively tense as in Christus Factus
Est. Furthermore, the change of the dynamics from forte to pianissimo also shows that a
relaxation is experienced in the rest, which seems like implying an internal decrescendo.
It is possible to argue that this soft progression to the end of Locus Iste helps with the
mystical atmosphere of the piece and the silent spot has a meditative character in it.
Example 2: Tense Silence in Bruckner’s Christus Factus Est (Mm. 51 and 57).

The word relieving has also been used before about the composer, where Lissa also
argues that Bruckner’s rests have the function of relieving tension. According to her, the
longer panels of pauses help the sound fabric to fade away gently. (1960: 449) Of
course, it may be discussed whether they relieve tension or intensify it, when it comes to
Christus Factus Est, where we have found a tense silence. This is because since silent
measures in Christus Factus Est follow harmonies, which need to be resolved.

Returning to the question of reverberation, it is very probable that Bruckner has thought
of the reverb effect on the performance, while writing these long expressive rests. Also
considering his religious background, it is not a coincidence that church acoustics can
be very influential in his choral writing. Locus Iste has been written for and dedicated to
the newly built cathedral of Linz, where its premiere was also done in 1869. The words
of this piece can be translated to English as following: ‘This place was made by God, a
priceless mystery; it is beyond reproach.’ The text fully fits into the context of the first
performance of the motet, thinking about a dedication to a sacred place, which was built
then. Also this information is a sign that Bruckner was literally thinking about the space
where the music will be performed during composing. This means, the reverb could be
an important motivation for writing such long silences for a choral composer.

According to the concept of perceived silence, it is suggested that the continuing sound
of the reverb will be considered as a silent moment. Also in the case of Bruckner
motets, this will be true. Nevertheless, it is also important to mention that in the context
of Bruckner, the notated silence may also be intended not to be silent at all, because of
the reverberation. It is also a curious question, how Bruckner himself would interpret
these long rests in a place without a real reverb effect. Today, many conductors decide
the length of the silence according to the acoustical characteristics of the venue and this
naturally opens up a huge debate on how far the interpretation of the performer can
challenge the score written by the composer, which is most likely, a topic of a different
study than ours.

In most cases, rests separate phrases from each other. This can easily be seen in many
compositions, because it is the most natural place for a rest to be a boundary between
the phrases. We may give an example from a contemporary of Bruckner, Johannes
Brahms, who also composed very much for choirs and made us of the significant
characteristics of human voice. In his ‘Nachtwache I, Op.104 No.1’, Brahms uses one
beat long rests to separate clearly distinguishable phrases. The silent third beat of the
15th bar is a distinct boundary between the minor and major parts of the whole piece.
The F-sharp major, which is the dominant chord to the B minor key, continues also after
this short pause. Nevertheless, now it is the dominant chord to B major, which is to be
seen easily by the newly introduced A-sharp and D-sharp (apparently also G-sharp,
which comes later). The one beat rest stands as a solid boundary between the two
sections of the piece.

Example 3: Transitional Silence in Brahms’ Nachtwache I (Mm. 13 and 17).


Looking at the boundary closer, it can be seen that the silence is preceded by a half
cadence. That results in a transitional silence in the 15th bar, connecting the minor key
to the major with the help of an unresolved dominant harmony. If there was no silence
here, it would be harder to digest the B-minor part and also to realize that it is literally
changing to major. Similar boundaries are to be seen in the following bars of the piece,
both separating and connecting phrases. Here, the function of the transitional silence as
a comma is also to be experienced literally. If we consider the poem of Friedrich
Rückert, we can see that exactly in that point, there is a comma between the lines:
“...Und wenn sich keines euch öffnet, trag ein Nachtwind euch...” We will return to that
masterpiece of Brahms when analyzing the effects of consonants and vowels.

There are other cases, where rests do not serve as boundaries to the musical phrases. It
is also possible to see them as elements used in musical lines. Considering choral
examples, the use of the text is a very important factor here. If we take the famous ‘O
Magnum Mysterium op. 152, No. 1’, by the French composer Francis Poulenc, we
realize a different approach to the silence. The beginning of the piece is characterized
by a very quiet introduction with the same words as in the title of the text. Interestingly,
the first sign we see in the score is a one beat rest. Hence, the silent first beat becomes a
preparation beat for the first tone, which is a Bb minor chord sung by the altos, tenors
and basses in a rather lower register. Practically, this first silent beat has no difference
than any ordinary upbeat. So, the rest has no specific reference to a particular silence at
all. The only difference is from the conductor’s perspective, which results in another
movement as the upbeat, coinciding with the beat one. Therefore, with the first sound,
the conductor’s beating hand should be going outside to show the second beat of a three
pattern. So, this notated first rest is only practical, in terms of Poulenc’s wish on the
placement of the melody in the three-four pattern. Naturally, the beginning with the
second beat brings a different set of strong and weak beats with regard to the text.

Rather, what draws our attention is the use of very short rests within the musical phrase.
The sixteenth rests in the second and the third bards constitute examples of that
situation. It is possible that this special use of the rests eventually imply a breathing
point for the singers. However, why would the composer specifically point out the exact
duration of the breath and furthermore, is it exactly implemented in that way in
performances? Looking from another perspective, it is also possible to think about these
sixteenth rests as a replacement for eighth rests. This small detail results in a
prolongation of the first beat of the second bar for a sixteenth note. Therefore, the chord
gains a sixteenth note more duration. In the performance practice, this extra sixteenth
note will most probably be interpreted as a resonance of the last ‘m’ consonant of the
word ‘magnum’. Since ‘m’ is a sounding consonant, the duration of the sixteenth note
can be performed practically by closing the lips to the ‘m’ sound. No extra effort should
be necessarily given for realizing this notation otherwise.

This usage of the rests within the phrase actually does not imply a break in the musical
sentence, nor does it show a pause in the meter. But the thought that it represents a
breathing point may also not be totally correct, since the phrase goes on after the rest
and the section before the rest is so short, that eventually no breathing should be needed
for a normal singer.

Example 4: Breathing Silence in Poulenc’s O Magnum Mysterium (Mm. 1 and 3).

Being a classical piece of choral repertoire, many professional choirs recorded


Poulenc’s O Magnum Mysterium. Looking at a few examples, it is seen that RIAS
Kammerchor (conducted by Marcus Creed), Netherlands Chamber Choir (conducted by
Eric Ericson) and Robert Shaw Festival Singers (conducted by Robert Shaw) 5 use these
tiny rests for breathing. So, although being not necessarily a breathing point, we can
conclude that many conductors make use of these rests for generating a more supported

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5
Tracks 4, 5, 6 in the CD.
sound from their singers. Thus, we may call this a breathing silence, looking at the
performance practice.

But there is more to talk about this specific point. Whether or not used as a breathing
point, a text-oriented approach could be helpful in interpreting this use of the rest by the
composer. Considering the text of the piece, this rest should be a sign of a very short
stopping of the sound, a brief silence between the two consonants ‘m’ of the words
‘magnum’ and ‘mysterium’. Showing how the composer pays attention to the exact
pronunciation of the text, this passage is also an example of a rest used as a part of a
single musical phrase, rather than separating different phrases. From this perspective,
these rests become points for a textual silence. In any case, this example shows us that a
silence can be interpreted in more than one way, concerning the functions we would like
to emphasize.

There are also examples in which rests are used as an intrinsic texture in the musical
phrase. The piece Yeniden by Hasan Uçarsu, a contemporary Turkish composer, has an
interesting rhythmical structure, utilizing rests a lot. To concentrate more, we may look
at the middle part of the work, where the following text is used “...ve ak!ama do"ru
güne!”. Between mm. 39 and 60, Uçarsu repeats these word repeatedly, each time in
different rhythmical variations. We may see staccato, tenuto, slurred motives in
different dynamics and sometimes crescendo / decrescendo effects. What interests us
more are the different combinations of them, all supported by a layer of silence behind.
The rests in this section are challenging to conduct. A conductor may choose different
ways of showing gestures for these bars. One can count all the rests one by one with the
right hand and look for an exact rhythmical performance. More interestingly, one may
contract or expand the rests by some degree, without counting all the beats. The second
approach can lead to a stronger tension, when applied to a concentrated choir. In either
ways, it is seen that the rests fulfill a special function here in this piece.

It is hard to call these rests as boundary, since they do not really separate two different
phrases. Rather, they are used within the same musical phrase. It is also doubtful, if we
would think of them as having an interruptive character. Actually, it is right that the
perception of the listener is interrupted with each silent moment, where the sentence is
never able to achieve the end. However, the concept of interruptive silence from the
view of Margulis has been used for a silent spot, which is not expected by the ear.
(2007: 254) This is not exactly the case here, since after a while, the anticipation to hear
silent moments emerges. In other words, the rests in between the small motives does not
interrupt the listener’s perception, rather becomes something expected.

Nevertheless, this section is at the same time very interruptive by persistently stopping
the melody. It has a stammering effect. The words are touched, but immediately
disappear into silence like in the mm. 49 and 52. This gives a hesitant feeling, as though
the full sentence cannot be expressed directly.

Example 5: Series of tense silences in a row in Uçarsu’s Yeniden (Mm. 37 and 48).
Example 5 (continued): Series of tense silences in a row in Uçarsu’s Yeniden (Mm. 49
and 60).

Therefore, it would be right to interpret these rests as an integral part to the musical
texture, not rejecting their interruptive character. To give a concrete analogy, we may
think of this section as a black and white painting. The shape of the black parts may
create meaningful images, when they are supplied with a white part, namely its contrast.
Considering the harmonies as black and the rests as white, this section cannot be
imagined without the effect of silence. The rests give their specific shape to the notes
here.

On the other hand, it creates a strong repetitive effect, hearing the same words
repeatedly. Being in the rhythmical pattern, one may resemble these rests to Clifton’s
category of silence in motion, which implies no gapping tendency. Rather, the melodic
motion carries itself through silence. Since the rests are such an integrated part of the
melodic line here, interpreting these rests, as silence in motion is a possibility. When we
see the whole phrase, a specific irregular motion is to be heard here. The meter changes
throughout these measures, like 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8. This irregularity, in turn,
interrupts the motion in the sense of Clifton’s category. He writes that in moving
silences, the body can easily dance to the music. (1976: 178) That is not the case here,
because of the irregular rhythmical patterns. Therefore, it may not be totally correct to
categorize this silence as in motion, although being a partial explanation to it.

At the end, the silent experience here could have a hybrid character, having both an
interruptive effect but also continuing in motion. This piece is also characterized by
rhythmical ideas, on which Lissa states the following: “When the tempo is quick and
the rhythmic values are of short duration, the breaks in the musical flow produced by
rests become a vehicle of great expressive power, bringing in the element of contrast.”
(Lissa 1972: 452) This argument is quite valid in this situation, also coinciding with our
idea of an integrated silence within the musical phrase.

At that point, it would be interesting what the composer himself thought about these
rests he wrote in those measures. His approach could guide us to a more comprehensive
analysis. Hasan Uçarsu points out that he did not think of all the beats with the rests to
be counted one by one by the conductor. He states that he may as well written these
silences as rests with fermatas, but this would make their timing too vague. Therefore,
his idea was to write the silences in tempo, but he claims that there is not a must to
perform exactly the same durations as written in the score. Actually, he himself wanted
the conductor not to count every beat and hold the tension between the notes. Therefore,
we may as well think of these rests as durations to connect different melodic motives.
What the composer intended to create was an effect of surprise in the listener, not
knowing what will come next. To generate this effect, silence is a very powerful tool,
leaving the listeners wrapped up in the musical piece at those moments. 6

This brings us to the idea of tense silence, which is a subcategory of interruption. The
harmony is very unstable, in terms of not being able to continue with the progression
because of the silent spots. It may be argued that there is a series of interruptive events
in a row. That is why, the listener gets used to the idea after some repetition.
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6
Taken from an explanation of the piece done by a choral rehearsal of my choir Rezonans, hosting Hasan Uçarsu as guest
composer. Also looking at other pieces by Uçarsu like Güzelleme or Çocukların Son Sözü, it is seen that he is very keen of using
silence both as an interruptive effect as well as a surprise for the listener. One can say it is a dramatic form of creating contrast
within the music.
Nevertheless, this familiarity does not prevent the interruptive character of the rests
here. These series of tense interruptions result in a puzzled state of mind in the listener.
The ear expects that something irregular will happen, but does not exactly know when
this will take place.

b) Breathing Points and Fermatas

All choral music has a natural component, which constitutes one of the most important
elements of the voice: Breath. Although all instrumentalists breathe while playing, it is
no question that singing brings the element of breathing in the foreground. The same
also happens with wind and brass players, who use their breath as a part of their music-
making process. Consider one singer, who is singing a lyrical romantic phrase. At one
point, he/she will have to inhale again, which is mostly the exact moment where the
phrase ends or the musical sentence changes. We have said mostly this is the case,
because there are also exception, where the singer has to breathe very quickly in
between a musical phrase, especially when the phrase is too long. But it would be good
to concentrate on the breathings between phrases for now, to make it easier to
understand its relationship with silence and see examples of breathing silence in choral
music.

As we have mentioned before, simultaneous breathing of the singers result in silent


spots in music. That is mostly to be seen in homophonic music. Thinking about
homophonic, and especially homorhythmic music examples, Johann Sebastian Bach
would be a great way of elaborating such kind of a silence. We may take one of his
most famous motets, ‘Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 227’ and look at the first movement of
it. The parts flow in the same harmonic rhythm, with some tiny rhythmical alterations in
the bass section. All parts sing the same text, which makes the melodic phrase move at
the same pace. In every two bars, there is a comma in the text, which is to be heard as
breathing points in the music. Usually, if there is a long note like two beats or four
beats, the last beat of it is used for the inhaling of the singers. This is exactly the case in
Jesu, meine Freude. If we listen to the last beat of the every second bar in the piece, we
will easily hear that these spots consist of silent moments. We may take the sixth bar as
an example, which possesses a four bars long note with the text ‘Zier’. First three beats
is the E-minor chord but the last beat is the silence. As in speech, that silent moment
creates a natural gap between the words and sentences. Similarly, Goldman-Eisler found
out in her research about speech and pauses that silences in speech occur in natural
boundaries of the sentence. (Goldman-Eisler 1960: 112) In that specific point, music
and speech must have a very close relationship, since the same effect is to be seen in
both cases.

We have discovered that the text necessitates a silence, when there is a comma or
period. Looking closer at this piece, it is interesting to note that there are many more
tiny silent spots with the commas, even though there is no breathing point. Careful
performers try to emphasize the small caesura after the word ‘Jesu’ in the first and fifth
bars, which is expressed by a comma after the word. A caesura is defined as a
momentarily interruption of the musical meter by silence. This is the case, which results
in a much shorter version of silence, compared to a breathing point. Nevertheless, the
silent moment gives the taste of musical phrase and makes the text clearly
understandable. That belongs to our category of textual silence, since the text is the key
for the formation of the silence here. We should note that it is not a breathing silence,
because a breath is not needed there. Considering the effect of the speech, the
punctuation markings help us to generate a comprehensible pronunciation of the text,
which includes the momentary silent spots after specific words, like “Jesu” here. In this
situation, speech and music are not treated differently.

Returning to the idea of a caesura, it is not necessary for them to be performed because
of the textual needs. Rather, also instrumental music hosts numerous caesuras. Similar
to our case here is Margulis’ example of Schubert’s Moment Musical, in which pianist
Radu Lupu creates an acoustical silence between measures 17 and 18, although there is
no rest notated. It is important here to see the argument that these kinds of caesuras,
which are not notated, could generate longer and more readily perceivable silences than
notated rests. (Margulis 2007: 248)

Another usual place for breathing and thus for a silent moment are the fermatas. A
fermata, interestingly meaning a ‘pause’ in Italian, is defined as a sign indicating the
prolongation of a note or a rest beyond its usual value. While this sign is implying a
longer duration of the note, it also shows a coming silence after this longer note in most
cases. This is not the rule, of course, because one may directly continue after a fermata
without a breath. But the endings of fermatas happen to be silent transitions to the next
note, if the fermata is not at the end of the piece.
Example 6: Breathing silence (indicated by right arrows) and textual silence (indicated
by down arrows) in Bach’s Jesu, meine Freude (Mm. 1 and 9)

A different case of Brahms’ use of fermata happens in his setting of a Serbian folk song,
Das Mädchen. The piece is divided into two parts in a clear-cut way. The first part,
mostly expressing sadness and grief, is in B minor key. The second part, in contrast,
talks about a happy story, happens to be in the parallel major. The transition is done in
the middle of the piece in a very subtle way. At that specific point, there is a fermata
between the mm. 28 and 39, separating the two sections.

A similar use can be seen also between the mm. 16 and 17. Being an unfamiliar use of
fermata, both happen to fulfill a boundary function. Looking at the section with the key
change again, we may question the type of the boundary here. Interestingly, although
the piece has not ended yet, we will call these boundaries an example of closural
silence. The initial reason for that is the authentic cadence, which implies the end of the
harmonic progression at the end of the 28th measure.

Example 7: Closural silence in Brahms’ Das Mädchen (Mm. 27 and 30).

It would not be wrong to interpret this setting of Brahms as one musical work divided
into two distinct pieces. Although having common melodic motives, both parts of the
work have extremely contrasting characters. Other than that, also the poem of Siegfried
Kapper hint at a contrast at that section, with the existence of the old man in the first
part and the young boy in the second one. Also the text helps us consider this silence as
closural.

Another compelling issue is that there is a fermata just over the bar line, which seems
strange considering the definition of fermata of lengthening the note or rest. Naturally,
the bar line is not a musical value to be made longer. Nevertheless, the natural phrasing
of the music suggests a silence at those specific points. So, both fermatas imply a longer
silence between the phrases. With the help of the fermatas over the bar line, Brahms can
achieve a clearly structured idea of the whole piece, with some sections being closer to
each other and some having more space in between. This piece also draws attention by
Brahms’ extremely interesting use of the rest at the end of the piece, which will be
analyzed in the next section.
c) Rests with a Fermata

As we have mentioned before, Brahms’ setting of Das Mädchen constitutes good


examples for the use of silences with fermata. But considering the whole piece, the
interesting story with happens at the very end of the piece with the usage of a rest. After
a forte dominant seventh - tonic resolution at the last two bars, there is a two beats long
rest after the last chord, which is strengthened by a fermata on it. It is not that
uncommon to experience rests at the end of pieces. Such examples have been seen in
Brahms’ music many times. This phenomenon happens especially when the melody
begins in the upbeat and composer needs to fulfill the remaining beats of the last bar.
This is more or less a mathematical formula. One of such examples would be his
Rosmarin, ending with a 3,5 beats rest, which the conductor does not usually count at
the very end of the piece. These rests mostly help having a boundary function between
the repetitions. Even his ending of Waldesnacht could be an example to this, since there
is a fermata on the half note in the beginning of the last beat, which implies a longer
duration of the last chord. After that comes, a two beats long rest, simply adding the
beats to a total of four.

But of course, the important question is why Brahms did not write a four beats note
with a fermata, which can be easily answered looking at the repetitions. Again, here, the
rests serve as a room between the repetitions. It is also logical that he may be
demanding a shorter last chord than a full four beats. So, here again rests at the end of
the piece is used for practical reasons.

Turning back to Das Mädchen, what is much more striking here, is that Brahms uses a
rest with a fermata at the end. What should that mean practically? If this would be a
final chord with a fermata, the composer’s intention would be to hold the last chord
longer. If this would be a mathematical adding up of the beats, then a use of fermata
would not be necessary. Now, if the case is a rest with a fermata, it is likely that the
wish of the composer is to have a longer sustain of the rest. Another question arising to
that specific point should be how should this passage sound acoustically. There comes
the notion of different acoustical characteristics into the play and the aim of the fermata
is more likely to be understood clearer. Considering different settings, for example a
small chamber music hall and a sonorous church acoustic, it is known that the duration
of the reverberations vary in a great deal.
Example 8: Last measures of Brahms’ Rosmarin and Waldesnacht (respectively).

To give some examples from the famous concert halls, we may find out the following
reverberation times at 500 Hz: Boston Symphony Hall – 1,8 seconds, Chicago
Orchestra Hall – 1,3 seconds, Amsterdam Concertgebouw – 2,1 seconds, London Royal
Albert Hall – 2,6 seconds. (Nave 2010) The fermata here could give the performer an
opportunity to decide how long to hold the last bit of silence, according to the acoustical
characteristics of the space. Practically, this case is no different than a rest with a
fermata in the middle of the piece, which implies to hold the tension of the music and
create a perceived silence, if not a fully acoustical one, depending on the resonating
sound. What makes this example special is that this implication comes at the end of the
piece and suggests that the silence at the end of the music should last even longer than
normal.

Thinking from the composer’s point of view, it may be concluded that Brahms did not
want to hold the last tonic chord longer than two beats, considering the harmonica
rhythm of the cadence. Therefore, he had to write a two beats long rest to fulfill the bar.
Nevertheless, it may be possible that two beats B major and two beats rest were not
enough to end such a colorful piece. That is why he put the sign of a fermata at the end,
claiming his wish to hold the last tension longer.
Example 9: Rest with a fermata in the last measure of Brahms’ Das Mädchen.

Without question, conductor must respond to this notation by not loosening the tension
in his/her hands and body after stopping the music. Thus, the singers also should keep
their musical posture. Brahms’ usage of a rest with a fermata at the end is a written
proof that the silence after the music is a worth-pondering phenomenon, although we
have included this example in the section of silence within the music, since it is a
notated silence.

d) Nuances of Letters and Effects to the Transition to Silence

Considering choral performance, text is a very important tool, which can never be
thought separate from the music. In the sections before, we have found out many times
that the text is very influential in determining the exact place of the caesuras and the
rests. It must be pointed out that the text also has a significant influence on the silences
without notated rests. Looking from that perspective, sounding and voiceless
consonants, and vowels serve differently. Generally, it is known that a consonant has
the function of ending the sound of a vowel. That is why the lips, the mouth, or the
tongue of the singer is in a closed position when performing a consonant. Kurt Adler
mentions that consonants are produced by actually putting obstacles in the way of the
free flow of the air stream. Here, we must differentiate voiced and voiceless consonants.
To begin with the latter, voiceless consonants have no specific pitch value. Rather they
cut the sound directly like in the German word “zurück”, from Brahms’ Nachtwache I.
The following letters are examples of voiceless consonants: “p, t, k, s, f”. On the other
hand, a voiced consonant contains a pitch, like the letters “b, d, v, l, r, z”. (Adler 1967:
20) But interesting for our case is a subcategory of voiced consonants, which are the
nasal consonants “m, n”. Richard Miller states that these voiced consonants, categorized
as nasal consonants, are capable of prolongation of the sound. (2000: 92) This is
particularly important for choral music, because these consonants become part of the
music by maintaining a longer duration of the chords. A word, ending with a nasal
consonant would be the German word “werden”, of which we will give a specific
example below with Rheinberger’s Abendlied. That is why, we will concentrate our
analysis of transitions to silence on these two types of consonants: Nasal and voiceless.
Of course, other voiced consonants could also be a point of interest in terms of endings;
nevertheless, these letters are more subject to different approaches in different
languages. Therefore, to see the contrasting effect between different consonants, it
would be enough for this paper to compare nasal consonants with voiceless consonants.

i. Basic Functions of Letters

Before going on into the distinction about of endings with nasal and voiceless
consonants, we may go over from the basic functions of words ending with any
consonant and vowel. For a rich example possessing a lot of silent spots, we may look
at the Omnis Una of Sisask from his work ‘Gloria Patri...’, where the composer utilizes
silence in various ways and he does it by different combinations of words. A consonant
here gives a different effect and necessitates an earlier cutting of the sound, like we
have mentioned before. In the fourth measure, although the composer writes a full bar
without any rest for the word “gaudeamus”, the “s” should be cut after the third beat of
the measure, so that the fourth beat remains silent. This makes the text more
understandable and creates a space for breathing. Even if the singers would not need to
breathe at that spot, the “s” should have been cut earlier than the beat one of the next
measure, so that the next word “Christo” would be fully recognizable. In any case,
namely with or without breathing, the consonant needs to be performed a bit earlier than
notated. This resembles to the Lissa’s concept of making room between the movements
of a work, (1964: 446) but adapted to a micro level of two notes.

If we take another example from the same piece, we see that the consonant at the end of
the word “laudes” is eventually not cut earlier than notated in the sixth measure. There
is a very good reason for it, which is the one beat rest in the beginning of the seventh
measure. That particular rest makes room for the clarity of the text and also a short
break for the singers to breathe, if necessary. Another question would be the following:
What would happen, if there is no rest after the consonant and the word in the next beat
begins with a vowel? That would not make an exception to the finding we have just
written above, which suggests that the consonant should be cut earlier, if the next beat
begins directly without rest.

Example 10: Breathing silence and functions of letters in Sisask’s Omnis Una (Mm. 1
and 6).

Although all of these examples aim at making the text more comprehensible, we have to
distinguish here again between breathing silence and textual silence. What we have
discussed under the section of the functions of letters refer to the text, but actually they
have the function of breathing silence. We may easily see this, imagining a wind quartet
playing the same piece by Sisask. Just like any choral singer, the wind players will
breathe at the specific sections mentioned above. It is certainly true that the short
silences help the text to be understood better, but it is just a side effect of the breathing
silence. We have to point out the fine distinction of the textual silence, which makes
this category totally related to the text, not to any other articulation or musical need.
Turning back to the comparison of the wind quartet and a choir, the difference in a choir
is that letters have their particular effects in the transition to silence, which is to be
analyzed in the section below.
ii. Transitions to Silence

We should distinguish between nasal and voiceless consonants, when we look closer to
the endings of pieces. There is a characteristic difference between these specific two
types of consonants in the performance practice, both from the singer’s and the
conductor’s perspective. Consider a voiceless consonant, like the last ‘k’ in the example
we have given: The last word of Brahms’ Nachtwache I, ‘zurück’. When ending with
this word, the last sound we are hearing is a sharp ‘k’ cutting the vowel ‘ü’. For the
conductor, this sensitive ending necessitates another upbeat, which leads to the last ‘k’
sound. Thus, the silence coming after this ending carries the reverberation of ‘k’ and the
silent moment is achieved in a rather direct way. The exact point of the last voiceless
consonant needs to be shown by the conductor and performed by the singers clearly.
Although the passage is pianissimo and the last letter should be pronounced very
quietly, we will call this transition to silence as an edged transition, because the
voiceless consonant generates a clear-cut border between the sound and silence.

Figure 1: Waveform of the edged transition to silence in Brahms’ Nachtwache I (2:25


– 2:30). Arrow indicates the point of ‘k’, where the edge happens. 7
(In all figures, the horizontal axis indicates time and the vertical axis indicates the
intensity of the sound.)

The waveform of this section also shows us that there is slight attack in the intensity of
the sound, just before passing on to silence. Since the passage is very quiet, it is hard to
recognize this attack of the voiceless consonant, but it is to be seen that the ‘k’ has an
effect. The edge comes in the beginning of the waveform and the rest is silence, which
is of course not absolute silence but a below threshold sound activity. Therefore, we
understand that no matter how pianissimo it is performed, a voiceless consonant at the
end of a word brings about an edged transition to silence. A forte passage, of course,
would be much more rigid.
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
7
Taken from the album Nightsong of King’s Singers by RCA Records. Waveform generated by Garage Band.
Example 11: Edged transition to silence in Brahms’ Nachtwache I (Mm. 27 and 29)

On the other hand, a nasal consonant would make a different transition to the silence.
We may take the famous ending of Rheinberger’s Abendlied, ending with an F major on
the word “werden”. Here, the conductor does a small extra movement for the sustaining
sound of the last ‘n’, which exactly sounds in F major just like the vowel before it.
Then, this last sound can be cut by the conductor. Simultaneously, the singers touch to
their palettes with their lips, generating the sounding ‘n’ consonant. Here, the soft ‘n’
sound in F major creates another level in the transition to the silence. Unlike the
voiceless consonant, the silence is achieved step by step, first with the changing of the
vowel ‘e’ to the consonant ‘n’, and then a smooth transition from ‘n’ to silence. Thus,
nasal and voiceless consonants, having different implications for the performers, also
generate different approaches to silence.
!

Example 12: Smooth transition to silence in Rheinberger’s Abendlied (Mm. 48 and 49).

1 2 3

Figure 2: Waveform of the smooth transition to silence in Rheinberger’s Abendlied


(3:15 – 3:21). 8

(1- Last sound: ‘en’, 2- Silence in the recording room, 3- ‘Absolute’ silence, the circle
shows the transition to silence)
9
This is also to be seen in the waveform showing the end of a recording of Abendlied.
The first half of the waveform represents the smooth transition to silence. The rest of

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
8
Taken from the album Cantus Missae of Stuttgart Kammerchor conducted by Frieder Bernius and published by Carus. Waveform
generated by Garage Band.
9
Track 15 in the CD.
the illustration is actually not silence, interestingly. It is rather the fade out done by the
mixing of the recording. So, the silence is represented with sound. Where we cannot see
any wave activity, is the absolute silence in the recording, which does not carry sound
information at all. That is especially interesting to see the nuance of different layers of
silence. We would call both as silence, but its definition changes according to the
context. In the first silence, we hear the sound of the room where the recording has been
made. In the second silence, we do not see any information on the waveform but hear
the sounds of the actual room we are in, when listening to that passage. This shows that
there can be much more layers of silence, which changes depending on our perception.

To return to the letters, we may look at the vowel and its effect to the transition to
silence. If we take a vowel at the end of a word, this creates yet another case, though not
extremely different from a voiceless consonant. The example can be the ending of #lhan
Baran’s Eylül Sonu. The piece ends with the word ‘kısalmasa’, so the last sound to be
heard is a pianissimo vowel ‘a’. Just like in the example of the voiceless consonant, the
conductor makes an upbeat before the cut and shows the exact place, where the singers
must stop to sing. Its only difference from the voiceless consonant is that there is no
direct border between the sound and the silence. However, here, the vowel transcends
into the silence.

Example 13: Smooth transition to silence in Baran’s Eylül Sonu (Mm. 33 and 34).

In all cases, as we have mentioned in the beginning, the silence after the music carries
more tension, if the conductor holds his/her hands in the air for some seconds, as the
singers continue to stay in their singing posture to have a resonance of the last sound.
Nevertheless, what makes this transition a smooth one is that the vowel ends with a
decrescendo at the same time. Looking at the waveform, we may conclude that the
transition happens to be not as smooth as Abendlied, where a nasal consonant helped to
flatten the sound before the silence.

Figure 3: Waveform of the smooth transition to silence in Baran’s Eylül Sonu (1:45 –
1:52). 10

Here, even a decrescendo to pianissimo cannot create the same effect as a nasal
consonant. Again, we will call this transition as smooth, since it is seen that the levels
of sound and silence begin to become narrower at the end. Actually, although there is
no voiceless consonant at the end, this transition to silence may as well be edged
transitions, if the last vowel was to end with an accent. So, when it comes to vowels, the
characteristic of the transition to the silence depends more on the dynamics and
articulation than the type of the vowel itself. Being small details, these points help very
much for an excellent ending of a choral piece.

e) Articulation Markings

Different kinds of articulation suggest small silent spots, like the following markings:
staccato, marcato, martellato, portato, etc. Usually in a legato phrase, there is no silent
moment in between the notes. But regardless of the instrument playing the music, a
staccato results in tiny silent spots. This has been called localized silent spots in the
previous sections. To observe these effects more carefully, we may concentrate on
many examples in the choral repertoire, especially considering the strong effect of the
text and letters with articulation. One of the most specific examples would be the
middle part of the Laudate Dominum by the Estonian composer Urmas Sisask. Towards
the beginning of the 60th measure, the character of the piece changes to a different
style. The composer has written the first part in a polyphonic legato style, where all the
parts share the important role in the music. Nevertheless, here, he turns to a staccato for
the men, contrasting them with a legato line in the women parts. What makes this
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
10
Taken from the recording by Rezonans conducted by myself .Waveform generated by Garage Band.
staccato expressive is not only its accent, but also the silent space between each note,
because the articulation suggests an earlier cutting of the note than notated. It can be
11
heard in the recording by the Chamber Choir Eesti Project that these localized silent
spots are eventually audible, even though the tempo is not that slow. Focusing on these
sections in the waveform of the relevant passage, we may actually see the effects of
implied rests in this piece. The illustration shows clearly that the sound diminishes after
each note and there is a steady repetition of relatively silent spots.

Figure 4: Waveform of the localized silent spots in Sisask’s Laudate Dominum (1:24 –
1:30). 12
Sisask creates a repeating pattern here, which leads to a periodic pulsation of the male
section. It is a shocking effect for the listener when the staccato notes are first heard.
After each note, there is a localized silent spot, resulting in a series of implied rests over
and over again. These local characteristics, when repeated many times, can create a
strongly meditative texture.

Example 14: Localized silent spots in Sisask’s Laudate Dominum (Mm. 60 and 65). 13

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
11
Track 17 in the CD.
12
Taken from the album The Chamber Choir Eesti Project – Gloria Patri... / Magnificat by Finlandia Records. Waveform generated
by Pro Tools.
A rich example with different characteristics of silence, Brahms’ Nachtwache I also
constitutes interesting cases in terms of articulation. Just after the transitional silence
we have analyzed before, the reference to the major key begins with a totally
contrasting portato technique. Because all the first 14 measures consist of legato
singing, the portato here draws attention. Listening to a recording of King’s Singers, the
localized silent spots in the 15th measure can be clearly heard, if listened carefully.

The waveform of the recording also shows it visually. The localized silent spots within
the portato are easily to be seen there. Not having a long-term implication, these tiny
silent moments help the listener to realize the arrival of the major key. It is important to
mention that the text is also effective in emphasizing these localized silent spots,
because all the syllables end with a consonant. It is also interesting to realize the
coincidence of a localized silent spot with breathing silence at the second beat of the
16th measure, which is actually a preparation for the next word “seufzend”.

Example 15: localized silent spots in Brahms’ Nachtwache I (Mm. 15 and 16).

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"$ !Only first seven spots are marked. The silent spots continue similarly as the staccato is performed thoughout the section.!
Figure 5: Waveform of the Localized silent spots in Brahms’ Nachtwache I (1:13 –
1:17). 14

f) Intermissions between Sections and Movements

It is already explained in this paper that silence between movements serve as boundaries
and can be labeled mostly as closural silence, considering their harmonic and melodic
character. In larger works with multiple movements, this function is obvious. However,
considering the multiple sections in one piece, a brief examination may be needed. One
very significant example of this situation is the Kyrie of Austrian contemporary
composer Franz Herzog. The composer clearly writes his Kyrie in an A-B-A form,
directly coinciding with the course of the text: “Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie
eleison.” Between the Kyrie and Christe sections, there is a short pause performed by
the choir. It is actually a silence after a fermata, which can hardly be interpreted merely
as a breathing point, because it implies much more than a simple breath. Blocks of 5/8
marcato sets coinciding with the legato 3/4 patterns dominate the first part. This
rhythmic diversity turns into calm continuous notes like in a church organ, building tone
clusters. In addition to the meter change, the tempo decreases drastically from 98 to 67
in the second part. This huge contrast between the two sections is edged by the silence
in the middle of them.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
14
Taken from the album Nightsong of King’s Singers by RCA Records. Waveform generated by Pro Tools.
Example 16: Closural silence in Herzog’s Kyrie (Mm. 38 and 42).

The ongoing suspension in the tenor and retardation in the alto results in a strong
emphasis of the tonic F# minor in the 40th measure. This signals a closural silence after
the fermata. The boundary does not show a continuation of a musical flow, but a fresh
beginning of a new musical idea in the 41th bar. All the changes in character, tempo,
meter, text and style support this idea. But this introduces us to an important aspect of
the closural silence. The closural characteristic does not imply a lack of tension in the
silent moment. Again, this does not mean that the music has ended. It only hints at a
certain musical resting of the performers, but not the total loosening of the musical
posture. This can be observed perfectly in the performance of Vienna Chamber Choir.
In their video recording taken at European Broadcasting Union Competition in 2009, 15
it is seen that the conductor does not release his hands in that specific silence. Rather, he
continues to hold the tension of the music, since the piece is not yet over. Nevertheless,
it can also be noted that he does not try to carry the musical flow to a continuation point.
In other words, his posture convinces the singers that a portion of music is over.

In the video recording, it is seen that the space between the two sections of the piece
lasts longer than it is notated. Looking at the score, the F# of the altos in the 41th bar
should eventually begin right after a breath next to the fermata. In other words, the

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
15
Vienna Chamber Choir at EBU - Let the peoples sing 2009, Kyrie by Herzog. Uploaded 29 October 2009. YouTube. San Bruno,
CA: YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jon4Uc60P-A
fermata should be followed by a direct upbeat. Rather, the conductor uses some more
time before giving the upbeat for the next bar, not to forget the implication of the double
bar line. This is helpful for the singers to recover after a demanding 40 bars of singing.
Also for the listener, this longer duration provides a room for digesting the A section of
the music, making them ready for the coming B section. In essence, closural silence
does not imply always a total stop of the music, but indicates that we are leaving one
section of the music behind.

Another end of a piece may illustrate a transitional silence, unlike the most endings of
pieces. If we study the end of Bach’s choral ‘Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden’ from
Matthauspassion, we will see that the choral ends with a dominant harmony in E major
with a fermata on the last chord. According to our definition, although being an ending,
the silence after this piece can be a transitional silence, because the harmony has not
resolved to tonic. Even if there is nothing to pass on to, the feeling of the silence is not
one of a completed ending. Especially because it is a Baroque piece, it is not a surprise
that we expect conventional tonal characters.

Example 17: Transitional silence in Bach’s Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden from
Matthäuspassion (Nr. 72, m. 12).

In this case, considering the oratorio character, we may look at what happens after this
ending. It is heard that E remains in the bass and the chord resolves to a C major in the
first bar of the recitative. The harmonic progression continues. That actually shows that
the boundary silence after the choral has a transition function to the recitative.
Example 18: The beginning after a transitional silence in Bach’s Matthauspassion (Nr.
73, m. 1).
4. Conclusion

At the end of this study, it is possible to argue that silence is mainly connected with the
notion of listening. The perception of silence and sounds depend on the layers we are
listening. Whether the background noise in the concert hall or sounds coming from the
street when listening to a CD, silent moments always carry another layer of sound in
themselves. The more careful we listen to silence, we begin to discover newly perceived
sounds.

As John Cage stated, there is no absolute silence. This notion is not only true for outer
sounds, but also for inner world. Even if there is outer silence, the mind may be full of
thoughts and inner voices. Listening carefully to the musical examples throughout the
study, I especially realized that inner silence is much more difficult to experience than
outer silence. The unfortunate truth is that the lack of inner silence disturbs the
perception of the listener as seriously as outer noise. That may be the reason, why our
listening concentration changes from time to time. Therefore, inner silence may have
direct effect on the musical perception, which opens up a brand new window for further
study on performance and listening.

Nevertheless, only the concepts of outer silence and sounds are sufficient to provide a
lot of information about the characteristics of music. This study claims that the
categorization of silence is very important to consider during performance and listening.
For some readers, the different categories of silence may sound irrelevant to the musical
experience. However, we have to admit that it is as crucial as any conventional musical
analysis. If the listener does not know very much about tonal harmony, he/she would
listen to the music with his/her own instincts and may as well enjoy it largely. However,
the appreciation of tonal harmony brings about another layer of understanding the
music. The same is true for silence. It is probable that the different effects of silence
may be felt during the performance. Still, the categorization of the characteristics of
silence opens up a possibility for a deeper appreciation.
This is especially true for performers. If we take choral conductors, we will see that the
appreciation of silence is of great importance. Today, we may face many conductors
who do not really consider the effect of the silence after the music. Such conductors
usually directly loosen the tension at the end of the last sound and not allow for a
digestion of the musical piece. In these cases, it is probable that the applause comes too
early. The same is true with the silence before the music. If the conductor does not
create a long enough silent spot before the music, the singers will begin singing in an
unprepared way. In addition, the different types of silence within the music can imply
extremely expressive moments, if they are used with consideration. That is the point,
where we really need a deliberate categorization of silence. What we have suggested in
this study is only a model, which could be taken much further. It only takes some
specific features of silence and its goal is not more than to raise the question how
silence should be categorized, by challenging some older concepts and making some
suggestions. The key idea of the work is that harmonic relationships, analysis of the
form, language and text, and the performance practice should not be undermined in
categorizing silence.

Whatever the model of categorization is, it is clear that different characteristics of


silence demand different ways of performance. A transitional silence cannot be
conducted as a closural one. Similarly, a breathing silence should not be more
interrupting than a tense silence. An interesting further study could be on how to
conduct silence. Still, merely being aware of the different categories gives us a notion of
how to approach these passages. After all, we try to conceptualize our own instincts on
musical interpretation and aim to see, if they are still applicable in different cases with
similar conditions. In any case, concentrating on silence provides a much more
comprehensive musical experience and must be elaborated carefully in musical analysis
and performance.
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DISCOGRAPHY

80. Yıl Anısına. 1999. TRT Istanbul Gençlik Korosu, TRT Ankara Gençlik Korosu.
Ankara: TRT. Compact disc with notes.

Bach, Johann Sebastian. 1991. Motets. Kammerchor Stuttgart, Frieder Bernius. Sony.
Compact disc with notes.

Bach, Johann Sebastian. 2006. St. Matthew Passion. The Amsterdam Baroque
Orchestra and Choir, Tom Koopan. Challenge Classics. Videodisc with notes.

Baltic Voices 2. 2004. Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Paul Hillier. Harmonia
Mundi Fr. Compact disc with notes.

Brahms, Johannes. 2005. Lieder und Romanzen. Kammerchor Stuttgart, Frieder


Bernius. Germany: SONY Classical. Compact disc with notes.

Bruckner, Anton. 1992. Mass in E Minor, Ave Maria, Christus Factus Est, Locus Iste,
Virga Jesse. Kammerchor Stuttgart, Frieder Bernius. Sony. Compact disc with notes.

Bruckner, Anton. 1999. Te Deum, Motetten. Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Chor der
Bayersichen Rundfunks, Eugen Jochum. Deutsche Grammophon. Compact disc with
notes.

Nightsongs. 1997. King’s Singers. New York: RCA Records. Compact disc with notes.

O Magnum Mysterium. 2000. Robert Shaw Festival Singers, Robert Shaw Chamber
Singers, Robert Shaw. Cleveland: Telarc. Compact disc with notes.

Poulenc, Francis. 1996. Motets, Messe. RIAS-Kammerchor, Marcus Creed. Harmonia


Mundi Fr. Compact disc with notes.
Poulenc, Francis. 2006. Sacred Choral Music. Netherlands Chamber Choir, Eric
Ericson. Netherlands: Globe. Compact disc with notes.

Rheinberger, Josef. 2002. Cantus Missae. Kammerchor Stuttgart, Ensemble Stuttgart,


Frieder Bernius. Stuttgart: Carus. Compact disc with notes.

Sisask, Urmas. 1994. Gloria Patri... / Magnificat. Chamber Choir Eesti Project, Anne-
Liis Treimann. Finlandia Records. Compact dist with notes.
APPENDICES

APPENDIX A: Compact Disc

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