Longreads: The Sounds of Silence

My first piece for Longreads was published this week, sharing five articles about listening to nature. The Reading List format is a pretty natural one for me—I’m much more comfortable sharing other people’s thoughts than passing off my own as in any way authoritative—and the process of writing it helped me to clarify some of my own thoughts on music, noise, and silence

It also led to a conversation with a friend about their own experience of listening to music, and how it can be a way to take us out of the present, “to go someplace that isn’t this, either to the past or the craving for something new.”

I think there’s definitely truth in that, but there’s a positive side to it, too. A while back, I started seeing a certain kind of active musical listening as essentially training wheels for being present in a moment. To really enjoy a song, you have to ride along with it and get lost in it, experiencing each note as it comes. In the last few years, I’ve been working on getting that same experience of a stretch of time without the music.

For a long time, though, I thought the training wheels were the bicycle. Music has been such an accessible way to get fully absorbed in the flow of time that I never thought to wonder if it was keeping me from experiencing something more. Now that I’ve made the connection, though, I’ve found one of the best ways to enjoy silence and contemplation is to imagine it as music without the music. It makes emotional and intuitive sense even if I can’t quite explain it in more depth.

In any case, go read the piece on Longreads, and enjoy some thoughtful writing by much wiser folks than me.