The Sound(s) of Silence: Presence of the Unhearable in Arvo Pärt’s Silentium

Andreas Waczkat

Being the second movement of Tabula rasa, Silentium is one of the compositions Arvo Pärt broke his long-lasting self-imposed silence with. The apparent paradox of silence being broken with silence is inherent in the concept, since in the strict sense there is no silence at all but only noise below the threshold of audibility. To this effect, in Silentium Pärt makes hearable what is typically unhearable. In the philosophical concept of Tabula rasa that can be traced back to Aristotle, the human soul resembles an unscribed tablet. Perceptions lead to impressions on the tablet. Silentium thus reflects the experience of silence.

In my paper, I will look into the notion of “silence” in philosophical and spiritual contexts and elaborate on the paradox of sounding silence as experience of numinous presence.

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