Naturally, when we discuss music, we are usually talking about melodies, keys, instrumentation, lyrics, arrangements…everything that has to do with the ‘sound’ of our music. That’s where we focus our efforts: practicing the notes, the dynamics, the structure, etc. We can get so caught up in what we’re supposed to sound like that we sometimes forget there are times when we shouldn’t sound at all. Sometimes the absence of sound can be just as powerful as the most inspiring music.
Think of some of the movies you’ve seen. Is there a constant occurrence of music throughout the entire film? Of course not. There are moments of complete silence, even when there is no dialogue. Only at the appropriate time does the music comes in and add something new to the scene.
In our liturgies we have ‘built-in’ moments of silence, and we should honor them…we should keep them sacred: after each reading, the sung Responsorial Psalm, right before the Prayer After Communion…to name a few. It’s important, I think, to not ‘rush’ to fill these quiet times with sound. Let the words of the Old Testament reading hang there for a bit before you start the Psalm. Don’t be afraid to ‘not play anything’ after a communion hymn. Silent meditation can be just as effective (if not more) as a meditation song. You may even want to ask your priests to consider pausing a little more than usual after everyone has sung the Holy, Holy, Holy, or the Mystery of Faith, or prayed the Lord’s Prayer. Sometimes, an added moment of silence can be a nice surprise when we’re not used to it. It can actually help us to focus more.
I can’t help but think of Tom Booth and Jenny Pixler’s beautiful song “Sacred Silence.” Click on the link and take a listen if you’ve never heard it. (or even if you have!) The music is available on spiritandsong.com