A famous composer once observed that ‘music is the space between the sounds’. What did he mean by this and how can it help us as educators?
Let’s turn that around: what would music be if there were no space between the sounds? Taken literally, you would get a constant blast of all frequencies, generating what’s known as ‘white noise’. This is similar to the sound you get on an old, analogue radio when it’s not tuned to any station. There is no definition: no beat, no melody, no tone and no harmony.
Visually, the same applies. If all frequences of the colour spectrum are transmitted, you get white light. Again, there is no definition. No shape, no colour, no tone. But, of course, these are extreme examples. The quotation implies something a little more nuanced.
An orchestra playing constant, random tones, will create a wall of sound. A stage full of dancers all moving continuously throughout the space will present a scene of chaos. And here we get a little closer to what our composer was really getting at.
Even if the orchestra members in question are all playing in the same key; without any phrasing or pauses between notes, the audience will have little to ‘hang on to’. The same applies with movement, painting and other artistic media. If there is no definition, the viewer will be set adrift in a virtual sea of sensation.
Of course, this can – in of itself – be a useful technique to create tension, confusion or an immersive experience. However, the impact of this will be limited. And its effect will depend on there being a beginning and end, within which that impact may be felt.
Letting The Audience In
By allowing space between notes, moves, images, etc., we create room for the audience. And this is where the ‘art’ begins. For any meaning to be conveyed, a dialogue needs to take place between creator and recipient: whether through sound, movement, visual imagery etc. It takes a little courage to leave such space but this is how we let the audience in.
When encouraging children to express themselves creatively, we tend to focus on ‘doing’. Indeed, within these pages, we have talked a fair amount about how to get our pupils to ‘do stuff’. But, along the way, it’s also important to remember to make room fo our audience. Even when that audience is just ourselves.
The easiest way to think of this is as a conversation. If we talk to somebody without pause for breath, we quickly overwhelm them. The listener won’t be able to follow our train of thought for long if there are no clear sentences or phrases. And if we don’t then allow them space to think, reflect and maybe even respond, they will quickly become fatigued and switch off.
Let’s be honest, we have probably all had the experience of seeing somebody’s eyes glaze over when we are excitedly talking on a topic about which we are passionate. The problem is, unless we tame our own enthusiasm, it can run away with us. In the heat of exuberance, the meaning we are trying to convey may be lost.
So, by all means, go head and enjoy the creative rush. Allow yourself outpourings of artistic brilliance. Thrill at the total immersion in free expression. But remember to breathe. And remember your audience needs space to breathe too!