“The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides!”
- Arthur Schnabel (1882-1951)
I resonate with this quote because, for me, the most engaging way to listen to music is by reverberating within the space between the notes, as if I am the body of a musical instrument.
You may also wish to try this when you next listen to music. Here is how to proceed: Relax your body. Slow and deepen your breathing. Feel the place where you perceive from, (for most people it is immediately behind their eyes), then begin to move your place of perception backward and downward. Doing so will relax you even more so.
Next, stay very present with each moment. To the extent that you can, stay within the center of each of the ‘micro-moments’ that occur, so that it seems like each second is actually a very long period of time, comprised of a great many micro-moments.
As your awareness remains centered in each micro-moment, notice that many of these micro-moments are occurring during the times when the actual musical note is not being played or sung. Instead, there is a space between the notes occurring, where you can still hear the decay of the note, but for the most part, this very brief time frame is primarily occupied by space and this space is colored by the unique resonance of the preceding note which is still vibrating within that space between those notes.
At this point, your experience of listening to the music may fundamentally shift from your usual way of experiencing it. As you relax even further into this way of listening and hold your consciousness within each micro-moment and most especially notice the quality of the space between the notes, it may seem as if your brain sped up.
Although it is an odd notion that increased relaxation would result in enabling your brain to actually process much more information than a more intense kind of concentration, for me, and others I’ve spoken to who also listen to music in this way, this experience in not uncommon.
At this point you may be able to perceive nuances and subtleties in the music that you hadn’t quite registered before listening in this way. And it is likely that this new perception will feel very rich and full.
In essence, your whole being has become akin to the body of a musical instrument… almost as if you were the body of a cello or the body of the guitar itself, and therefore every nuance of the music registered within you as felt sound.
My guess is that Arthur Schnabel may have been doing some version of what I just described and therefore was able to stay present in the space between the notes in ways that gave him a unique sensibility to his playing. And with this quote - “The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides!” – he may be giving us more than simple insight into his artistry. Perhaps he is sharing a methodology that we may all benefit from, as listeners or as players and singers of music.
- Richard Chandler
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