Beethoven’s ninth symphony starts with, or in, silence. There is silence, of course (or there ought to be!), just as the orchestra’s conductor raises his magic wand or stick, a silence which is pregnant with the marvelous stream of sounds soon to come out and pierce the space of the hall. But the silence which dominates within the first strands of music in the first movement of the symphony is different: it is a qualitative silence, briefly interrupted at short intervals by faint stirrings of the strings. Is it the silence, or the sound, that is being interrupted? Something is soon going to happen, to be revealed, as if for the first time (and it should be the first time every time).
The same thing happens, if I remember well, with the beginning of Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’, announcing, as it does, (foreboding) things to come and which will send a shiver up the spine and a deafening sound in one’s ears at the climax of its stentorian message. Cataclysmic events, if not as much, at least comparable (and symmetrical, since one announces a beginning and the other an end), to the fourth part of Wagner’s Ring: ‘The Downfall of the Gods’. Of the Universe, in fact.
What is silence, and why is it so… powerful, so awe-inspiring? In the same way that there is physical space and subtle space (akasa in Indian philosophical tradition), there is, or must be, physical or gross silence (absence of sound) and subtle silence. These two (space and silence) are meta-physical realities (we cannot call them entities), more real than their gross counterparts. They are both undefinable and unperceivable by the senses. (Will continue).