silent concert

A concert program performed by musicians in such a way that not a single note can be heard.

If in musical terms silence is what the architecture of music is built on, a Silent Concert highlights the silence underlying the piece being played. It is a silence full of the involuntary sounds made by the musicians, the conductor, the audience, as well as any other sounds made on stage. They are the sounds that in a normal concert are inevitably masked by the music itself.

We are, therefore, confronted with an unusual event: the gathering together of a band or orchestra and an audience for the purpose of performing musical pieces in such a way that they will not be heard. It is important to insist on the fact that the musicians are really playing and performing the score. They just do it in a silent way. We could say that they play at such low volume that the music is not heard.

06.21.02. International Day of Music. Passeig del Born, BCN.
All fifty-seven members of the BMB conducted by Tres played three pieces lasting 30 minutes without a single note being heard at a stage placed at the back to Santa María del Mar Church.

06.21.03. International Day of Music. BCN
Banda de la Unidad Montada de la Guardia Urbana de Barcelona. Succession of small silent concerts in several squares, “plazas”, of the Old City. The horses’ hooves are muted with rubber.




Silent concert for choir and mercury ocean. 06.21.06. and 09.24.07, International Day of Music (06) and La Merçé (07). Sant Sebastià Beach, BCN.
At dusk, Kántor, the character who directs the ocean waves as if he were conducting an orchestra, coincides with a group of silent musicians and the mute harmony of a soundless choir.
Hommage to Tadeusz Kantor and his piece “the sea concert”.
With Euskal Hiria Choir conducted by Pablo Vélez, Jacob Draminsky, Aurora Vélez, and the tuba players Sergi Vergés, David Parras, Toni Chelvi and Custodio Muñoz.


"In 1930s China, Kazantzaki's search takes him to a temple in Beijing, where he attends a silent concert. The musicians take their seats and tune their instruments. "The old master starts the gesture of clapping his hands, but his palms stop just before touching. It is the signal that this surprising mute concert can begin. The violinists lift up their bows and the flute players adjust their instruments on their lips, while their fingers move quickly over the holes. Absolute silence... Nothing is heard. It is like a concert taking place very far away (...)." J. Pezeu-Massabuau also makes reference to old Japanese celebrations where silent concerts were secretly held: "Everybody listened, and what they heard in it, nobody could repeat." (From David Le Breton's Silence, published in Spanish by Sequitur, 2001)

In this context, it is also essential to refer to 4'33", the famous silent piece by American composer John Cage. Written in 1952 and divided into three movements, it may be performed with any instrument or combination of instruments. The only unchanging aspect of 4'33'' is its duration. During that set period of time the performer, following the indications on the score, does not play a single note, which makes the piece absolutely contiguous with the world. It becomes the world itself. This way, Cage puts the audience in dialogue with nature and invites it to listen to ambient sounds. The significance given to the act of "listening" is probably Cage's most important legacy. "Music never stops; it is only the listening that is intermittent." This quote from Henry David Thoreau, the author of Walden, summarizes his message.

Finally, we would like to mention a little known story involving German philosopher Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969). According to this story, the only time Adorno visited Freiburg University--the turf of Martin Heidegger, his philosophical opponent--to give a lecture, Heidegger's students offered Adorno a string quartet concert during which the music was played, but not a single note was heard. With that, Heidegger's students alluded with irony to Adorno's aesthetic principle, according to which the work of art must not be disclosed under any circumstances.

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