Celebrating the sound of silence

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The Independent Culture
Mention Radio 3 and most pop youths will squint at you like you're some crusty old slipper-wearing square. They'd be in for a surprise if they ever thought to tune in to The Music Machine (5pm R3), a breezy daily music magazine which encompasses all sorts of genres, from classical through pop to world music and beyond. "People think they know what Radio 3 is," Tommy Pearson, presenter, says. "We're trying to prove them wrong."

Today's programme tackles the subject of silence in music. Prince, before he'd gone totally mad, memorably suggested "We'll try to imagine what silence looks like", and soundscape artist extraordinaire Brian Eno once declared that "Music is the cup that holds the wine of silence". Pearson, too, will be trying to convince us that silence can speak louder than words.

Have you ever wondered why, for instance, Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" stayed for so long at the top of the charts? Well, apart from the obvious socio-economic arguments, Pearson explains that it's the two pauses - one before the first chorus, and one before the climactic change of key.

Pearson will also be comparing two recordings of John Cage's 4'33'', and examining the phenomenon of immediate applause at the end of a concert piece. "Only the most respected conductors can make people not clap," Pearson explains. "People just don't know how to handle silence." Listen...

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