This article posits an absolute difference between the regime of silence and the regime of near inaudibility. The regime of silence pivots equally on avowals of the possibility of sound’s absence and on negated versions, such as John Cage’s declaration, “There is no such thing as silence.” I trace the appearance of this linking of silence to the metaphysical language of presence in the work of Cage, Foucault, and Derrida. My argument is that, while the regime of silence is linked to a dialectic of being and nothingness, plenitude and finitude, the fullness of meaning or the ground of nonmeaning from which meaning is drawn, by contrast, near inaudibility is linked to a separate set of conceptual and aesthetic terms: formal gradations of pressure, tension, intensity, and force. Finally, each regime also contains within itself a theory of violence. For silence, the centrality of the language of being leads to the fantasy of being’s elimination; by contrast, near inaudibility is linked to a violence that imprints its force on and as an effect of tension and duration in form. In a reading of the work of composer Vadim Karassikov, this essay’s claim is that near inaudibility or the form of radical quiet is, in a formulation from Jean-Luc Nancy, “suspended on the limit of its own presentation.” That suspension lifts, at the culmination of the article, into another discourse altogether: the pressure of the tense formal language of a composition by Evan Johnson, written for, and in order to complete, this article.
Eugenie Brinkema; Critique of Silence. differences 1 December 2011; 22 (2-3): 211–234. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-1428897
Download citation file: