I used to make my Creative Writing students listen to music, analytically.
It never fazed me that they lacked the training and vocabulary required for in-depth analysis; I just wanted them to use their ears. I wanted them to describe what they heard with the vocabulary they had.
Of course, one student would always want to know how this exercise was going to help them with their writing.
And I'd say, "Let's talk about that afterward."
So, we'd listen. And, with minimal guidance, the students would quickly latch on to the music's form and phrasing, rhythmic and motivic development, and the way these elements moved them from the beginning of the piece to its end.
Because our discussions often ran on the long side, I didn't have much time to compare the musical examples with an equal number of literary ones. But it never mattered. As soon as I presented one sample of text, the class got it.
Apart from the differences between the languages composers and writers use—abstract vs. referential, both types of creators follow similar guidelines. They need form, they need context; their work must be coherent, but it must also have a balance between the familiar and the surprising. Finally, their work must arouse, and then sustain a listener's or reader's interest.
The methods by which all this is accomplished are as varied as the creators who use them, but the basic elements are the same.
And the first of those is silence.
The absence of sound and text serves many functions.
When it occurs in music—generally indicated by symbols called rests—it separates one note, or phrase, or section of a composition from another. Silence gives performers a chance to breathe. It shapes lines and adds interest; further, it creates tension by interrupting momentum. In a multi-movement work, silence prepares audiences for a change in character. At the end of a composition, silence allows audiences to reflect.
In prose, punctuation gives us our silences. So do section and chapter breaks. These are readers' chances to breathe, and writers' chances to create tension, interrupt momentum, and take the reader to another time or location.
Silence is essential.
And sometimes, it can be the most important way to amuse...and surprise....
Causes Barbara Froman Supports
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
Greater Chicago Food Depository
Lawyers for the Creative Arts