Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The music of silence

That's the Pussycat Dolls sealing their lips. Not for the good of humanity, you understand, but to promote their Shhh lingerie range back in 2008.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the Pussycats' inexplicable decision to keep singing, I've become preoccupied with musicians being quiet. Let me tell you why...

A couple of weeks ago, my colleague at the BBC News Website Tim Masters dropped me a line saying he'd interviewed author Jennifer Egan about her new book A Visit From The Goon Squad. One of the chapters in this Orange Prize-nominated novel takes the form of a Powerpoint presentation, which details 12 of the greatest pauses in rock music - those little, unexpected moments of calm that are guaranteed to ruin any game of musical chairs. Here they are in no particular order.

  • Foxy Lady - Jimi Hendrix
  • Please Play This Song on the Radio - NOFX
  • Good Times, Bad Times - Led Zeppelin
  • Bernadette - The Four Tops
  • Young Americans - David Bowie
  • Mighty Sword - The Frames
  • Supervixen - Garbage
  • Long Train Runnin’ - The Doobie Brothers
  • The Time of the Season - The Zombies
  • Faith - George Michael
  • Closing Time - Semisonic
  • Roxanne - The Police
  • Rearrange Beds - An Horse

Tim sent me a chunk of his interview and suggested it might make a decent feature on 6 Music... I agreed, and set off to ask some musicians about the science of silence, and along the way I bumped into Dr Victoria Williamson (who runs an excellent blog on the psychology of music). It all turned into this radio package, which aired yesterday.

Sometimes I love my job...

Footnote one: The chapter in A Visit From The Goon Sqaud also works as a standalone short story. It's available for free online - just click on this link.

Footnote two: Jennifer's list is far from exhaustive. I'd have included the "STOP!" moment from Britney's Crazy, or the almighty gap before the first verse of The Foo Fighters' Monkey Wrench. Any more ideas out there?

Footnote three: Tim's interview with Jennifer Egan can be found here.

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