The Best Music is Silence

To paint a picture, the canvas needs to be blank; to write a poem, the page has to be empty; similarly to experience music, one has to embody silence.

Of course, there will be some smart-asss who would argue that it is possible to paint something noisy already, on a newspaper for example. Of course, you can do that, however, for the expression to ensue, you have to acknowledge the print, and you would have to find a way around it to make the point clear. Still, the essence remains the same – for an expression to emerge, the background has to make way.

Taking it literally defeats the purpose, because it is nearly impossible to ever experience absolute emptiness. Even the canvas holds the fine details of the fabric, and the page has its textures and pure silence means death.

A painting, a poem, a sculpture, a photograph – all are tangible art forms, meaning you can physically hold them to prove their existence, but how do you materialise a song? Sound once written either in words or illustrated in frequencies, loses its inherent capacity to exist. It is not sound anymore, just a visual clue. What about a CD, or a flash drive, again, it is data coded on silicon on the electronics within, sound loses existence again.

All of the tangible forms are a decoration of space, we put up paintings, and photographs on our walls, and showcase our intensity with chocked bookshelves.

Music or sound is the art form that decorates time.

We trust an artist, either through digital streaming or a disk player, that for the next five minutes, we shall be taken on a journey to far-off lands and experiences, and the more we relate to the vibe, the more we dive in. Listening to music is one of the most beautiful experiences a human being can have. There is no physical justification or proof of how exactly two people feel listening to the same song, and it is quite axiomatic that it is different, for a reason we all know that everyone is unique in their ways. Like a billion faces with similar patterns and structures, it is astonishingly rare to find two people who look the same.

Music is a decoration of time, based on trust, hope and an internal inclination towards surrender. To experience music in its absolute form, one has to learn how to establish silence.

This holds even for the creator, or the songwriter because musicians can only create when they listen. The first ever listener to any song is the songwriter herself, and the more in tune she is with herself, the better, the deeper, more meaningful the song is.

Some people are shrugged in noise, of all sorts – sonic, verbal, visual, visceral and live in a generally very hazy environment. In the late 80s, the loudness wars started, people wanted to make their sounds as loud as possible. A lot of musicians were willing to compromise with the dynamic integrity of the song and would accept the brick of a waveform of the final master. Thankfully we have come out of it, we have realised that it is not about the loudness anymore. For certain popular genres, it still is a thing, but for actual producers, it is irrelevant, as it is in the dynamics where the soul of the song resides.

A lot of artists claim that it is while writing or composing that they feel the most calm, at peace, free and non-existence. The reality holds in two subtle metaphors – one is the stillness that ensues when someone grounds themselves, meditates and embraces the vulnerability of now and the superpower it ensues; two, the ascension from the consumer to an observer state of being is unlocked, which is the dragon-scroll for absolute human existence, given no inherent biases are induced and morality is kept at bay.

Certain artists dedicate their lives to art only because of this state that ensues. The novelty driven by product, fame or money disappears, and it is sometimes not a strong motivation to keep an artist going. Because if it was, then they could have chosen an easier way and would’ve ended up earning more.

Great musicians choose not to play.

There is a beautiful quote that reads,

“Good musicians know when to play but great musicians know when not to play”.

Back in 2016, when I played with a band, I learned the core of this statement from my incredible session players. Skill and experience-wise, they were far superior to me, and I knew that I was here not to lead but to follow. There was a lot to learn, and one thing that was imbibed within my soul was that I have to listen first, and then play.

Spontaneity and letting go of intentions is a very clever way of writing superior songs, but there are times when you have to listen.

Meditation is a very helpful act for artists until the process itself turns into a meditation. A lot of players just pick up the instrument and start shredding, which is often unnecessary. The purpose of music is decluttering and bringing order to chaos. Objectively that is what music is, random notes and sounds arranged in patterns and ways that make the coalition sound beautiful, harmonious and coherent. Aesthetic choices may differ, but that is what music is fundamentally.

Take a break!

A break before doing anything related to the experience of music is what I preach to all of my students and fellow artists. Before picking up the instrument, just take a break and sit still for a few minutes. There is a process to it, and it would differ with everyone, but here is the chronology –

Sit down, close your eyes, and identify every little source of sound – the dogs barking in the distance, the electrostatic hum of the refrigerator, the gentle murmur of the fan, the creaky doors and windows, the gentle breeze, people chattering in the distance, identify every source, acknowledge them, and then detach yourself from it.

Do you realise sometimes while daydreaming we get so lost in thoughts that even with eyes wide open we fail to notice what we are looking at – the ceiling fan turns into the wall, the wall evolves into the walls and then you have an almost 360 degree view of the room, where you can see everything but you are not looking at anything in particular. This is the visual analogy to the aural dimension.

You hear everything, but you don’t listen to anything.

Then you pick up the instrument to practice or write, on put on your headphones and listen to music. I consider the casual act of listening to music a very bad habit indeed. Indian philosophy indicates that music is a way to self-realisation and eventual nirvana, this is a rather strong statement. We have heard stories of how they made the rain come by singing a specific raaga or how one’s body would rage in fire after singing the proclaimed Deepak raaga. Arguing about the physical, logical proof of such events and questioning the supernatural is a waste of time because that is not the point. It is evident.

Has a song ever made you cry, does a song take you back in time, is there a song that makes you so happy that you could dance?

Perhaps it is the disruption of the intra-personal connection that should be a default. Along with teaching crazy mathematical equations and rote learning the capital cities of all the countries, the knowledge of emotions, self and the relationship with our soul should also be taught in schools, but we have drifted too far by now. While yoga should exist as a natural and socially accepted activity, it is now a novelty item being showcased through erotic clothing, erotic motions, erotic bodies and just a crude idea of narcissism driven by inherent perversion.

Music must be regarded as a spiritual guide in its essence. Entertainment fades, but realisations and knowledge stay and you grow.


This is also a blatant question of our collective loss of sensitivity. There are reels with two videos put right on top of each other – one of someone narrating, the other of gameplay, with four different soundtracks playing at the same time – one of the narrator, the second of the gameplay, the third is a sad violin-esque melody and the fourth is the brutalist clipping blasts of 808. How much stimulation do we need now?

Overstimulation compromises our sensitivity, a prime illustration is a boredom. We are never bored anymore, there is always something we could do – watch a youtube video, look for new arrivals, what is trending, seasonal sales, order food, porn, everything everywhere all at once.

This text is not supposed to be a petty complaint in any way, there is no intention to criticise anything. It is about the state of affairs of how imprudent has the experience of music become.

There is one solution, however, and it is hidden in this act of being silent.

The best music is silence.

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

Aldous Huxley

Congratulations on making it to the end. I am doing 30 Days of Writing, a self-imposed challenge where I try to write one text every day for 30 days. Today is the 5th day, and honestly, I didn’t even think I would make it to Day 2, but here we are.

Consider signing up for the newsletter here to receive all the updates delivered straight into your inbox. Have a good day.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *