The music of silence — listen, Narberth

Silence is what we want sometimes. Silence is musical.

A few weeks ago Tom and I and our friends Ulf and Cole attended the July 4 fireworks celebration in nearby Narberth Park. As darkness fell, thousands of people crowded the park and Windsor Avenue. Teenagers love to hang out in Narberth, so there was a lot of youthful shouting, sweat, and laughter. Pop music blared, loudly yet un-clearly, over the amplifiers with an insistent beat.

A trained operatic tenor sang the national anthem to enthusiastic applause, and then the show began. A tremendous burst of gold, followed by white, followed by purple and red, lit the night sky. The borough spared no expense in providing a generous pyrotechnic show.

But as the dazzling spectacle filled the air, as each crackle and cannon-like boom of the next shell faded, darn if that distorted P.A. system didn’t continue to natter out tunes, never turning off, pumping away on its own track, completely oblivious to the majestic visual display, and out of sync with the music of the fireworks explosions. To me, there is a wonderful sense of anticipation in the silence that separates each shell before it is set off. But we never got that suspenseful silence, that restful moment for our ears before the next crackle, whine and explosion. It was as if the celebration that marked the birth of our nation was playing second fiddle to the familiar strains one hears in a T-shirt store.

Next year, the borough fathers and mothers ought to orchestrate their fireworks show so that the P.A. system is turned off during the pyrotechnic display. They can trust that the music of silence will accompany the music of fireworks to perfection.


There are 2 responses to “The music of silence — listen, Narberth”

  1. Sometimes it takes a person with a highly trained musical ear to notice when the sounds around us aren’t quite right. Another person might have left the fireworks feeling off balance in some way, but not able to pinpoint what the cause was. Thanks for reminding us that in order to appreciate the beauty of sound, we need to surround it with silence.

  2. better yet– let’s have a live orchestra there to punctuate the silence and explosions with music played and halted in perfect synchrony with the real people in attendance to inspire them!