The Silence I Could See

A beautiful and bright Sunday morning. Silent here under the mountains except for the sound of oak and maple leaves changing colors.

I’m listening to disc 4 of “John Coltrane: Live in Japan,” recorded the year before Coltrane died. The 57:19-minute “My Favorite Things” begins quietly with a bass solo, Jimmy Garrison exploring his strings for long minutes. Compared to the sheets of sound that will come when Coltrane bursts into the comparative silence, Garrison’s sounds are muted, discrete, contemplative (Coltrane’s work will be contemplative as well, especially as they extend over dozens and dozens of minutes, but contemplative in a different register). My attention wanders and when it returns to the music Garrison is playing arco, his bow extending individual notes in time, and then

and then there is silence. The end of the tune? I wonder. Just as I wonder this I hear Garrison’s bass again, plucked now, and I realize what has just happened.

The silence has let me see him set down the bow and then reach his fingers back to the strings.

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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2 Responses to The Silence I Could See

  1. flowerville says:

    ‘comparative silence’… that should be the study of this phenomenon of silences… and what they can do….

    what do you think about wieland? just read arno schmidt’s essay about him and loved it. but never read any wieland…. schmidt says aristipp is a good one… do you know it or anything else that’s nice?


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