What Happens After the Dot?

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Extreme limiting can annihilate dynamics. What is more dangerous perhaps is that silence appears to be destroyed – banished to a world beyond ours.

by Robert Halvarsson, Mar. 2014

While teaching writing techniques and journalism in a cooperative I work for in my day to day, I’ve begun to ponder on the role of dynamics, pauses and movement in writing.

In the audio world we have had a debate the last few years, about something commonly referred to as the loudness wars, where compression and limiting take away nuances, everything appears to be taking the front row in relationship to the listener, and while this happens not only the dynamics are taken away. What is more dangerous perhaps is that silence appears to be destroyed – banished to a world beyond ours.

While listening to Soulhack, by Forss, through Soundcloud, I am struck as to how alternative modes of thinking can relate to contemporary music. This album blends ambient, spoken word, and jazz – and the dynamics are clearly there. This is demonstrated, among other things, visually through looking at the sound-form. What is happening is that every element are not equally outspoken. Using a visual analogy, these pieces appear to breathe.

Equally impressive is that you can anticipate the movement, but sometimes only vaguely so, the evolution of a piece remains a mystery while listening to it. It appears to stop, slow into a halt, while at other times moving through condensed intensity. The lack of formulistic pop-music expressions, and a storytelling aspect, makes it, and similar pieces, able to communicate with the beholder a fullness of expression not commonly present in modern music-production.

Silence as an expression of music.

As producers we are taught to master our instruments, our technological tools become our friends, we cooperate and go beyond our hardware, computers, synthesizers and instruments, realizing and working within and beyond their intentions.

All of this may appear as distant to the archaic process of handwriting, but the creative process are strikingly similar in some aspects. As a writer you start with the fabric of a piece of paper, devoid of information, or today you may begin with the blank sheet of a word-processor. Instead of letting the words you write fill the totality of the page, scream for attention towards the reader or listener (the great other), we may choose to strive to balance different aspects of our piece without letting each part force itself forward.

The whiteness is silence, the eternal frame in which everything plays out. It is a space in which life manifests, nourishing it all the while. While contemplating these things I learn how an interplay of movement and stillness interact, of meaning, of pauses and fast-forward. These relationships can make or break a poem, an article or a novel.

So as I am coming to a halt, I see in the talented musician, he or she who is interacting with silence, letting it become (part of) music. There is a mystery to this process. I like to believe this skill cannot be flat out taught, and definitely never bought, but rather this is what puts the art into whatever it is that we do. A permanent onslaught of sound, could on the other hand destroy the potential musicality we as craftsmen should attempt to form and distinguish.

Silence is what happens before and after the dot. The full stop. On a smaller level, it is what happens between each word. Also the stillness which the words themselves may convey.

So, what will transpire after this sentence? Only God knows…

by Robert Halvarsson

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