Music and Noise are where my journey into sound as an element of architecture began. I ended my investigations with ideas about silence. Silence is to sound as white light is to color: the tabula rasa.
Tabula rasa literally translated means blank tablet, or, more accurately, scraped tablet. It refers to the Roman tabula, or wax tablet, used for notes, blanked by heating the wax, and then smoothing it to give a tabula rasa.
Tabula rasa describes a baseline moment in time. Birth and Death are ‘tabula rasa’ events of one’s life. These are moments when our ‘tablets’ are literally scraped clean, and an opening is created for new beginnings. Whereas the idea of ‘scraping clean’ can be destructive, it also marks a line that allows for a healthy renewal.
In 1952 the composer John Cage performed 4’ – 33”. If you do not know this piece, 4’ – 33” has performers sitting in silence for four minutes and thirty-three seconds, and that period of ‘silence’ comprises Cage’s piece. Since its original presentation in 1952, 4’ – 33” creates an open interpretation of music, sound, and noise. Cage’s piece proposes that sounds surrounding a performance are equal to any musical composition.
Silence sets the idea of ‘sound’ apart as a concept. If silence is zero, then noise is an arbitrary flow of numeration, without form, arrangement, and without an ending point. Music, on the other hand, is an organized arrangement of sounds that take us from zero to some ending point, as selected and curated, by the composer. This distinctive description of these ideas is made possible, through the existence of Cage’s piece.