Pop music’s problem with silence

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What are the uses of silence in music and why is popular music so afraid of them? In this video I look at the various ways composers use silence, and why so many of them are considered out of bounds to today's chart toppers. Support me on Patreon:

4 minutes 33 4'33'' david bruce consolation of rain gregorian plainchant john cage john cage silent piece john tavener le banquet celeste mahler das lied von der erde media distinctio messiaen netpune holst the planets scott joplin ragtime dances sibelius 5th symphony silence silence in classical music silence in popular music the fade out toru takemitsu silence in music

I think silence on modern popular music (all styles really) is implemented primarily by absence of kick and bass rather than silence per se. Interesting you talk about the reggae One Drop rythm here especpaillly as so much of modern post-rock music, especially EDM styles. is so heavily influenced by reggae. \
Abram Foster
In terms of current radio pop, \
I am an aspiring (rock) musician with no formal musical education, but your content is amazingly inspiring as many other people have said here. I hope I can repay you someday through some good music of my own.
Alex Larking
The way you talk about these examples inspires me so much…
Alexis Harper
Metal definitely uses silence. Some songs just cut something off at a good time (I’ve seen this more in death metal than other genres). There’s also rhythmic silence (good example Master of Puppets chorus by Metallica).
Arne Hanna
Silence is extremely important in dance rhythm I think. For dance rhythm, whether it be funk or latin or techno etc, to have the desired effect, the silences, albeit extremely short ones, just have to be there. There's no better way to kill the groove than to smother it with sustained chords.
Thunderbolt by Bjork have a long pause between the verse but it was supposed to meant the time of lighting and the thunder. She often make long pauses between phrases too and let the background instrument shine.\n In my own composition i like to make variation in density of instruments to add \
Austin Molitor
The silence just before the end of Strawberry Fields Forever is my favorite.
You sound like red guy from dont hug me im scared
Benjamin Eliasson
Thank you very, very much for raising awareness of the beauty of silence in music. Silence is avoided like the plague by many composers (too many?) - only the most brave and accomplished dare to go there. As with all your videos, your treatment of the subject at hand is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Thank you.
Bob Gooday
No Simon and Garfunkel reference? Bold move.
CPotter Vlog
There’s an old kyuss song called Supa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop (dumb title, I know) that has these long pauses at the end of the song.
Caleb Creed
Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek, has many dramatic pauses in the A section. One of them even appears at the apex of the melody. Blood aand (SPACE) tears. \n\nAnother possible example is the intro and outro to Jeff Buckley's cover of Hallelujah.\n\nIt's used to good effect in many places throughout Fleet Foxes' newest album 'Crack Up'\n\nOne very powerful set of (almost) silences for me is the brief pauses at 13:10ish in the Dawn Upshaw recording of Goreki's 3rd 1st movement setting off that little soprano solo nestled into the very top of the movement. Like you've walked up some Golgotha, and stumbled upon some Mary there still singing about her dead son.
Cheyenne Martin
Extremely interesting and wonderful video. Really makes me think about how some songs I listen to for the first time that begin with silence make me think my headphones are broken.
Colin MacDaniels
Most people that listen to pop music don't have an imagination, that's why they listen to pop music.
Dan Gulino
Really enjoying your posts mate 👌👌
David Bennett Piano
My favourite fade out is 'Don't Stop Me Now' by Queen - when my band play it live, the audience always continue singing past the fade out, and if they are still singing when they reach the next 'don't stop me now' we come back in and play another chorus!
David Bruce Composer
5:05 Do I get the prize for the longest silence in a YouTube video?
I've instantaneously recalled Hemispheres from Rush. There is pause o 2:34 that, in my opinion, is simply genius.
On silence in pop music, my first thought is the 17 seconds of silence in \
My favorite fade out that I've performed is in Eric Whitacre's \
Silence is one of my favorite musical notes. And complete silence during a piece can be a very powerful statement :)!
Fishy Fod
Interesting video and topic, but isn't the title somewhat misleading? The video talks mostly about different uses of silence and their different meanings, but it doesn't really focus on its absence in pop music. Wouldn't a better title be \
Would also like to mention some powerful pauses in \
Astounding work! Hugely underrated channel
Gran Ribeyro
Two words : war pigs
Gussy Rikh
Very, very insightful.
Thanks for addressing this, it has always annoyed me.
This great website I found called, Wikipedia 😂
I Am Frank
There are far different economies of scale between classical and pop music, and the experiences - and expectations - of both are therefore different. I wouldn't say that pop music is 'afraid' of silence (specifically the \
Is there a technical name for pattering the strings with the fingers on the tailpiece side of the bridge, as you use in Consolation? Or is this a described instruction in the score?\nI have played jazz compositions that include written ensemble silences. Also once wrote a short piece with the instruction that each player, whether playing the melody or soloing, should randomly remove elements over several choruses until total silence is reached, then build the piece back up in a similar manner. It's terrific when it comes off...\nEnjoying your channel David. Many thanks.
*S i g h l e n c e*
Jane Zetkin
Coming from a background of listening largely to hardcore and metal, silence is used generally to give the listener a moment's pause to breathe.
Jazz Duets
Thank you so much sir. Best video I have seen in ages¡ Please can you do a similar one on dynamics please if you have not already. cheers + subbed
Joe Zawinul Reviews and Reactions
Great video. I think you might find some interesting silences and spaces in Joe Zawinul's music. Sometimes it's total silence but other times it's lots of percussion and that groove is background and there are long spaces between notes on the keyboard
John Berkley
John St Dominic
I dislike fade-out endings, having grown up during the '80's when they were ubiquitous in pop music. Would you say that false endings in rock/pop (e.g. Blind Guardian's 'The Maiden and the Minstrel Knight') count as silence?\n\nMy choirmaster told me this anecdote: When Stanford was teaching Howells composition at the Royal College of Music, he took Howells into the Chapel and lectured him in depth on its architecture. He then told Howells to compose a piece for him. When Howells presented Stanford with his composition, Stanford was not pleased. \
Jonathan Palmquist
There is still an expectation of silence in between album tracks. You focused on the minority of situations where you don't listen to a whole song, but the silence between album tracks is one of the most common examples of what you're describing, at least as it relates to pop music. \n\nAnd you didn't mention how modern songs use them in 'drops' especially in edm music, like a sucking in affect. Like in the song \
Jonny Roxx
Without silence,\n\nRhythm...\n\nWould not...\n\nBe possible.\n\nPeace. JR
Josh Costantini
This video made me realize how much background noise there is in my house right now.
Josh Starkey
Rush's YYZ is the first song I thought of. Those pauses after the morse code bit create a lot of anticipation.
Kade Kalka
One of my favorite examples of silence at the beginning and end of a piece is Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd. There's a brief bit of silence before the piece fades in and the piece ends with a very well made fade out. There's just something about that I really enjoy.
Lee Torry
Leo Humphries
Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys has a bar of silence after the famous \
Lila Phoenix
My favourite song that uses silence as an important part is Awaken by Dario Marianelli. I can't really explain it, you should see (or hear it) yourself
My favourite silence is in Richard Strauss's 'Metamorphosen'. After 20 minutes or so of music without any silence and much of it polyphonic, suddenly there's an unexpected bar of silence after an accelerando. It just puts you on edge as you await resolution. Very effective. Cracking piece, one of Strauss's best. Great video. Thanks!
Lucy B
''Music is not in the notes but in the silence inbetween''\n-Mozart
Mal-2 KSC
I think Alanis Morissette nailed it in _All I Really Want._\n\n_Why are you so petrified of silence?_\n_Here, can you handle this?_\n\n[silence]\n\n_Did you think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines?_\n_Or when you think you're gonna die?_\n_Or did you long for the next distraction?_\n\nShe both used it effectively, _and_ lampshaded why it isn't done more often. Isn't it ironic?\nᴇᴅɪᴛᴇᴅ ʙᴇᴄᴀᴜsᴇ ɪ ᴄᴀɴɴᴏᴛ ɪɴᴛᴏ ɪᴛᴀʟɪᴄs.
Mike Fezwaldo
Sometimes it's not what you play, it's what you don't play.
I was something like 10 years old when I did a presentation about Metallica with my friend for music class. After talking about the band we played Sad But True on cassette and had a lot of fun watching our teacher always getting up during the pauses thinking the song had ended. Anyways, there's one example. Cool video!
Kiss by Prince shows one of the greatest and sexiest uses of silence in a pop song IMO
i think this is in part exactly why i found the 17-second long silence in the video for Childish Gambino's \
Noah Bell
It’s like Shawn Mendez watched this video before producing the album he released yesterday. He threw in a tasteful and much needed dosage of silence in his new record
Noel Walters
When I turn on my radio and wonder if it's working then I know it's correctly tuned to BBC radio 3.
Not Right Music
Steller video David! One of my favorites of yours. \nYour presentation keeps getting better. I felt as if you were in the same room with me. That's a hard quality to achieve through video. \nI tried to think of massive silence in pop music. The first thing that came to mind was \
1:18 As a German: Your pronounciation of the \
Ever since reading about Cage's thoughts some years ago I feel like I appreciate more every sound. 4'33\
7:17 There's also the fade-out that closes the central fugue [\
Piping Pepsi
Since nobody’s said “first” yet, first!
Richard Atkinson
I went to one of those new music concerts where every piece is an amorphous, pulse-less collection of gimmicks, and one of the program notes claimed to be using \
Rigado Salcardo
Great video, i have been thinking of silence in pop music for quite a long time. I seriously think that i don't like certain kinds of music only because of the lack of silence. Its funny that u speak about barroque music because i often say that i dont like that time (musicaly) because it lacks silence. \n\nGreetings from a student in México City, im very glad that u r doing thin kind of work on youtube, thank you, Sir.
Ross Jones
Black Lake by Bjork is about 50% pauses.
Siriana Evera
A very educational video. Thank you for the insight, I really enjoy learning something new on a topic that is either neglected in our fast-pacing time or overly focused on (like in esoteric circles). The clip when the audience communally held the silence at the end of the music piece... whoah, that was more moving than anything loud. Like an exclamation mark to your explanation right before - perfect ! As for examples, I''m not sure if it falls into \
My favourite use of silence in a movie recently was in Infinity War. SPOILER WARNING!!!\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nThe score built and built and built all the way up to Vision's death, it's undoing and redoing and Thor's last attempt to kill Thanos, getting more and more dramatic and intense, but came the snap. The silence after the snap was just perfect. No one in the cinema made a sound. It was the only way to capture the enormity of what had just happened. The lack of music throughout all the deaths that came after just made each and every one of them more tangible. It just gave a perfect impression of being numb and dumbstruck by what had just happened. It's also the opposite of what most movies with (a) dramatic death(s) do, which is have a moment of muted audio before a swell and a slow motion shot. It subverted my expectations perfectly.\n\nI was amazed by it. However when I spoke to my friends after the movie most of them said it felt anticlimactic specifically because of how quiet it was in comparison to where it had been. I can understand why they might feel that way, because modern cinema has essentially conditioned viewers to expect a sad string swell every time a character dies, but for me, that deafening silence is what made that entire final section so emotional and effective.
Static Voicings
This is a great video. I have no orchestral background but I wanna include these silence and negative space into my drawings and music. Beautiful
One day, Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh held a conference for politicians about World Peace. He started with: \
A rather modern artist I often think about when incorporating silence as an integral part of the music is Murcof, a minimalist electronic/classical act. Especially on his first album, Martes, where many of the tracks start of with a single, repeating phrase, that is then broken by the silence, until more layers are added. An entirely different aesthetic is on his Cosmos-album, living up to it's name in truest Hans Zimmer's Interstellar-fashion, with a fluctuating, droning soundscape that sometimes feels like it lasts forever and keeps building up, until slowly fading out and letting silence take over. Really neat.
TSG Frank
I never quite realized how profound silence is and the ways it could be used in music. \nStuff like the fade out and using silence in music have been undermined and ignored over time, which after seeing this video, it just seems a shame and a loss that composers and musicians in pop and in general don't make use of it.\nHonestly, great job with this video, you deserve a lot of credit for your work.
That Dude
fade out is easiest way to end a piece
Tibs Silverberry
Sabicas zapateado en re, at the beginning but that's more of a grand pause
Dilla was exactly what came to mind just before you played it!
Torbjörn Svedberg
Maybe our fear of silence derives from the possibility that we, in that void, have to face our selves. Look inwards and reflect. Scary stuff huh? Thanks for bringing this subject up. Very interesting indeed.
Trekkie 135
Rush uses pauses a lot
Tylerly Jones
I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston, the horn blasts into a full bar rest before the vocals come in, 10/10
Godspeed You! Black Emperor uses a lot of silence, especially in their debut album; F#A# Infinity
Vitor Roma
Zelda Breath of the Wild soundtrack makes great use of silence.
I just discovered this channel, I love your content! I'll have to check out the wiki-whatever site too!
On Bach: consider also pauses between movements. They sometimes give listeners a deliberate respite, time to catch their breath. Best example: after the Erbarme Dich (St. Matthew Passion again), there's a pause, and a chorale. You need this silence and the simpler melody after this emotional peak, and Bach understood this perfectly. Also, not sure the Wikipedia article correctly interprets that bloodrushed pause you talked about (one of my favourite moments in all of music).\nAnd another one you could have mentioned: 2nd movement of Schubert's Great Symphony. There's a climax point, symbolising destruction of some kind, and then a silence, and a very soft, gradual return of the theme, like a forest that recovers from a wildfire.
Great video. I think one of the major reasons silence is so rarely used in pop, is due to the way people consume the music not the style its self. When i sit down to explicitly spind my time listening (much like you would in a concert hall) to a peice of music, silence can really enhance the peice and be engaging, but if im listening to that same peice but while im working out for example that same silence not only loses its effect but is a distraction and remove immersion from that peice of music or the activity im doing. I think for silence to work the listener has to be actively engaging with the music which explains why its rarely used in pop where people tend to listen passively.
Wiktor Skrzypczyński
Incredibly inspiring video, thank you.
All I hear during silence is tinnitus :(
Yash Kshirsagar
*No one dared disturb the sound of silence...*
Zak M
Haydn's String Quartet No. 30, \
Silence is a part of a lot of metal music. An abrupt pause, or just an unexpected one, can make all the difference.
_ musique
So called \
afterSt0rm Gaming
Can you analyze silence on Arvo Part and other minimalist composers?
One exception is Mark Hollis album.
a recent example of contemplative silence is shown in Childish Gambino's \
911/Mr Lonely by Tyler the creator has a very short silence
I had to figure out creative mixing solutions to create digital silence where and when I want in my mixes. I also love tape stops, and fake silence (where sound is actually playing but mightn't be audible on crappy speakers/headphones, or where people naturally assume/hear it as silence because they compare it to the louder sounds before).\nThanks for the *Pro Tip* that fade outs aren't being used much anymore... Heck, I still love me a nice long snare roll!! (What ever happened to them!? Haha.) That being said, I think I've just done my best effect manipulated fade out on my latest track, lol... ;D Subscribed!
...\n\n\n\n\nGood video.
petrik coffy
I just wanted to thank you for your awesome videos, they never fail to inspire me.
I can't think of a sensuous pause in pop music, but the stop in Steve Harley's \
This really moved me. Thank you so much!
Childish Gambino's Sweatpants plays with the sensuous pause near the end of the song. His last verse is spoken in anger, you hear fists slam against a table and then sudden silence, bringing a sense of uncomfortably, especially while watching the music video with everyone around him staring at him. A synth plays a simple chord progression followed by another heartbeat of silence, and then the chorus hits us more powerfully than before.
Christina Aguilera barely leaves any gap of silence between verses. Pop music fears silence, that’s very usual in people with nothing inside the head.
5:07 How angry would the audience get if I ripped a thunderous fart in the key of G?