Moved by nothing: Listening to musical silence

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12 Scopus citations


This article explores the functions of silence in common-practice music, with an emphasis on the characteristics of perceived silence as distinct from notated and acoustic silence. Context is shown to guide listening in complex ways that enable the same acoustic silence, embedded in different musical surroundings, to encourage widely divergent perceptions. Five functions of silence are explored: silence as boundary, silence as interruption, silence as a revealer of the inner ear, silence as a promoter of meta-listening, and silence as a communicator. The article's account of silence emphasizes the active, participatory nature of music listening and addresses the implications for thought about music cognition and experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)245-276
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Music Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Music


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