I once came across a quote by Mozart the famous, Austrian-German composer,

“The Music is not in the notes but in the Silence”

I was in my teens then, and being a student of music (I was learning Western Classical Piano) I pondered over this. But made very little sense to me.


In the silence lies the secret. 1

These are how rests or silence is denoted in Western Classical Music. These symbols all define different lengths where no music is played. It adds to the rhythm of the song. In simple lay man parlance when you see a rest that simply means no note is being played. No sound is being created.

I was a very keen student and enjoyed my music. And honestly I found it a waste of time when a rest popped up. I was always eager to play the note and create a sound, create a flow in the music. And sometimes I would overlook these marking because to me, what was the purpose of writing out silence. If at all, it hindered the flow. A waste of time my mind would say loudly in my head. My teacher however would have nothing of that. And I remember grudgingly waiting out rests simply because I was an obedient student.

As I advanced in my music studies, the only reason I ever followed these rests was because when you play with other musicians you need to be accurate with rhythm, if I didn’t bother about the markings and the rhythm, the show would be a mess. Also they did offer a little respite sometime to briefly rest the finger muscle in a particularly challenging piece. (In music a brief millisecond when the muscle can relax is very important for execution of a piece).

I still didn’t understand what Mozart meant. Maybe a genius’s eccentric understanding of life!  His music was heavenly. It had the power to make my heart happy and sad and make me feel emotions that couldn’t be named. I waited for the notes to pour in one after another not the silence in between. It was an even bigger pleasure and joy when I would play it.

Then many years later as I started my spiritual journey, I came across many mystics and spiritual masters speaking (albeit in different terms) about watching the gap between thoughts. Sometimes they talked about watching the breath between the breath. They spoke of how the gap as you watch it slowly opens up into larger spaces of gaps. Thoughts reduce. And slowly you can merge into that nothingness, the vastness. That very vastness that is you. And then suddenly it dawned on me, what Mozart had implied. As you listen to his music, (or any music which comes from a space of higher vibration) as the notes weave in one after another, suddenly there is a brief stop. And if you are alert enough you are suddenly catapulted into a space of just “Being”. Beyond the thought, a stop. If you are alert, it has the power to bring the shift in you.

It’s very brief, but for that one tiny moment the music has the power to push you into a space of no mind. The Music in the silence suddenly made sense. A satori moment as Osho often referred to, in his talks. The small satori moments that opens up to more bigger moments. And it finally dawned on me the power of music.

So the next time you listen to music, watch out for the rests. Because the real music lies right there, as Mozart aptly said.

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