This article explores the functions of silence in common-practice music, with an emphasis on the characteristics of perceived silence as distinct from notated and acoustic silence. Context is shown to guide listening in complex ways that enable the same acoustic silence, embedded in different musical surroundings, to encourage widely divergent perceptions. Five functions of silence are explored: silence as boundary, silence as interruption, silence as a revealer of the inner ear, silence as a promoter of meta-listening, and silence as a communicator. The article's account of silence emphasizes the active, participatory nature of music listening and addresses the implications for thought about music cognition and experience.

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