How the Silence Makes the Music

© Michael Waraksa

A brief, incomplete, very quiet guide to the history of music’s negative spaces.

One of the most arresting objects on display in the musical instruments galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a 2,000-year-old bell from Japan that was built to be mute. Dotaku bells such as this one still puzzle historians, but we know they were made without clappers and buried in earth, probably as part of a ritual designed to bless crops.

The first time I saw the Met’s dotaku, I stopped dead in my tracks. The expectation of sound had been turned into a sacrificial act of silence. From inside two slits high up on the bell, I thought I saw the ghost of John Cage smiling out. Full story.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim (The New York Times) / October 2, 2019

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