Describing the sound of silence is probably the easiest to describe because it’s the sound that we never pay attention to and everyone can do it right now. This experiment works best early in the morning, very early in the morning, when the morning stillness seems so silent. It’s not though. You might hear the steady hum of the refrigerator, the cheerful chirp of a sparrow, but let’s ignore that and listen to the sounds in your head. That sound is like listening to the cosmos. The sound is usually steady and fuzzy radio frequency-like. A very low level of noise that you may be inclined to say it sounds like neutrons bouncing around protons. But it’s there. Listen.
Music is a more interesting sound to describe, however not easier. A moving piece of music is Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque. I can’t read music and am not a musician nor have I ever written about music, that is, the music itself, not whether I like it or not. I am unable to use words like “timbre” or “tone” without revealing that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve provided the name of the piece of music, so someone could look it up and listen to it. I can describe how it makes me feel but describing the music itself without the language of music is most difficult. In Debussy’s piece, it commences with the single notes of a piano on the richer side of the scale with deep tones. It’s relaxing music, as if you are walking through a meadow with a slight breeze. It’s uplifting music, music that is pleased either with itself or with the surrounding beauty of the meadow through which we walk. It’s also reflective music that captures the higher levels thought. The listener is not thinking about laundry lists and chores, rather they are being led by the music to a higher plane of contemplation. A pleasant and soothing plane that might remind them of a past happiness or a future one.
The pace of the piano is the same. One is strolling through the meadow. However, the pace of the piano picks up now and then and sometimes becomes playful rather than contemplative so perhaps we’ve started skipping or laughing and our thoughts are less philosophical and more mundane. The music leads you from the mundane, from the sad, to the joyful and hopeful; it leads you through a life.