Currently installed at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai is an exhibition entitled ‘Music and the Goddess’. Laid out over three floors of a sensuously flowing flying saucer-like building it has a very other worldly atmosphere.
Inside is a typically riotous Indian confection of art meets science with a generous helping of the spiritual, the celestial and even quantam mechanics. It was inter-active on many levels: here an iPad displaying pictures and sounds of echoes of the Big Bang set against woven fabrics and Hindu symbology: there a large xylophone with exquisitely carved granite keys which when struck with small wooden hammers created notes of an achingly delicate timbre. From the very young to the very old, all were entranced, informed, entertained and wholly absorbed. For me one small piece of writing struck a chord – no pun intended.
There is silence in sound, the Anhata Nada, the un-struck sound which exists in potential anti-matter state.
As someone who loves playing and listening to music I have come to realise that it is often more important what you do not play than what you do. The spaces in the music help the whole piece to ‘breathe’ and to give it dramatic intensity and vitality. So also with the spoken or sung word, the pauses – the silence – is everything to the delivery. Yet this sentence hints at even more but what exactly is for the moment – to me at least – unclear.
So inside that calm beautiful space, whilst outside the cacophony of traffic horns and humanity that is Mumbai’s daily song roared, I had a wry smile to myself about my imminent immersion in a week long silent retreat. Many of my friends expressed astonishment at the mention of this and seem to have doubted my ability to sustain silence for this period and to you at this moment in time I say – nothing! Doubtless I will have a huge amount to say afterwards and when I do I will work on the pauses, the space, the breathing quality of what I do say.