Ontology of Silence

Domain Concept

  • A silence is a duration containing no intentional sound.
  • An intentional sound is that sound which is intended to interrupt a silence.
    • Unintentional sounds may have local intentionality but are made without awareness of the silence.
      • A silence in a forest may include the singing of birds who make intentional sound but without awareness of the silence.
      • Two lovers falling silent as they gaze into one another’s eyes in a crowded restaurant sustain their mutual silence despite the many unintentional sounds around them until they are interrupted (perhaps by a waiter bringing a menu).
    • A person disrespectfully calling out as a rugby union player tees up a kick at goal intends to disrupt the silence.
      • The extent to which an interruption successfully breaks a silence is a matter of common agreement. In some instances, a silence is deemed to have continued despite an attempted interruption. In this case, the intentional sound becomes absorbed into the silence.
  • A duration may be specified or unspecified, but silence will always have a duration.
    • The limits of the duration of a silence are set by the intrusion of intentional sound.
      • A duration may be measured in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, lifetimes, or eternities.
  • Silences may be Real or Ideal.
    • Real silence is full of sound.
      • Since “a complete absence of sound” (OED) is an ideal condition, there will always be some sound in a real silence.
  • A Real Silence is an experience which can be either recorded or unrecorded.
    • A recorded silence is not the same silence as that which was experienced, but is rather a new, mediated silence.
  • Recorded silences have a Recording Type, which refers to the conditions under which the recording was made.
    • An Accidental Recording is an unintended silence on a recording.
    • An Ambient Recording is a silence in a given space.
    • A Concert Recording is a silence in a musical concert.
    • A Field Recording is a silence recorded in a specified location.
    • A Personal Recording is a silence recorded by an individual for private use.
    • A Studio Recording is a controlled silence recorded in a studio situation.
  • An unrecorded silence is an actual experience that may be represented in any medium other than recorded sound or may not be represented at all.
    • The typology of unrecorded silences is: Image; Music; Verbal; Written; or Unrepresented.
      • Image Types of unrecorded silence represents silence in an image, that may be: a movie; a painting; a photograph; a sculpture; any other image.
      • Music Types of unrecorded silence include both silent pieces of music and music that otherwise attempts to represent silence. They may be either composition or performance.
      • Verbal Types of unrecorded silence represent the silence through spoken words.
      • Written Types of unrecorded silence may be either poetry or prose.
      • Unrepresented Types of unrecorded silence are silences that are experienced but not represented in any way. This type exists but is necessarily void.
  • An ideal silence can only be evoked, but not experienced.
    • An ideal silence is the one described by the dictionary definition of silence as: “a complete absence of sound” (OED, 2017).
      • The silence in a vacuum is ideal, because it cannot not be experienced by a human being, but only evoked.
      • The “silence of the grave” is similarly ideal, because it cannot be experienced but only evoked.
  • The evocations of ideal silence are: Gestural; Imagistic; Sonic; Verbal; Written; Unclassified.
    • A Gestural Evocation conveys the ideal silence through gesture.
    • An Imagistic Evocation conveys an ideal silence through image.
    • A Sonic Evocation conveys the ideal silence through sound.
    • A Verbal Evocation conveys the ideal silence through spoken words.
    • A Written Evocation conveys the ideal silence through written words.
    • An Unclassified Evocation uses some other means than gesture, image, sound, or words (written or spoken) to convey the ideal silence.

Value Propositions

  • The Effect of a silence is defined by its frame (that which surrounds the silence in time and/or space).
    • Absolute Silence is the effect of a total absence of sound in a period of time or a given space.
    • Electronic Silence is the effect of an absence of signal in an electronic medium.
    • Environmental Silence is the effect of silence in an environment.
    • A Hush is the effect of a silence that is collectively willed.
    • A Silent Interlude is the effect of a silence that occurs during some event.
    • An Outer Silence is the effect of a silence manifested by an individual or group.
    • A Silent Postlude is the effect of a silence that follows some event.
    • A Silent Prelude is the effect of a silence that precedes some event.
    • Quiet is the effect emanating from a silent source.
    • Radio Silence is the effect of no signal from a broadcast medium or a normally communicative group.
    • Ritual Silence is effect of a silence that forms part of some ritual.
    • A Still Silence is the effect of stillness.
    • Silent Space is the effect of silence in a given space.
  • The character of a silence is determined by its Affect.
    • Affect is a subjective perception of the personal or emotional consequences of a silence.
      • An Ambient Silence surrounds you.
      • An Amiable Silence is friendly.
      • An Amusing Silence makes you smile.
      • An Angry Silence is an expression of rage.
      • An Anticipatory Silence makes you expect something.
      • An Anxious Silence is a troubling experience.
      • An Attentive Silence is the respect shown by a listener.
      • An Awkward Silence is when words will not come.
      • A Bittersweet Silence produces mixed emotions.
      • A Boring Silence seems to never end.
      • A Brooding Silence suggests that something is going on.
      • A Cheerful Silence is a happy one in which sound is unnecessary.
      • A Contented Silence occurs when all sonic needs have been fulfilled.
      • A Crepuscular Silence feels like the “still of the evening”.
      • A Deafening Silence is a notable absence of response.
      • A Disgusted Silence occurs when it is better that no sound is made.
      • A Dramatic Silence is a silence used for effect in some performance.
      • An Empathetic Silence is the shared moment when you become lost in someone else’s profound thoughts
      • A Fascinating Silence is one which does not wish to interrupt.
      • A Fearful Silence is afraid of the consequences of making a sound.
      • A Good-natured Silence is the natural product of wellbeing.
      • An Incidental Silence goes unnoticed by most people.
      • An Inner Silence may be achieved through meditation or religious contemplation.
      • An Interested Silence is polite but nevertheless engaged.
      • An Interrupting Silence is intended to interrupt sounds.
      • A Joyful Silence is when there are no sounds left to express the joy.
      • A Longing Silence awaits fulfilment.
      • A Meditative Silence accompanies some inner process of spirituality.
      • A Mindful Silence attends only to the present moment.
      • A Moody Silence occurs when one’s emotions get the better of one.
      • A Musing Silence is quizzical yet contemplative.
      • A Mute Silence cannot make a sound
      • A Mysterious Silence is inexplicable.
      • A Performative Silence is perceived to have a function within a performative setting.
      • A Polite Silence will eventually be broken by the need to utter.
      • A Political Silence is both the suppression of a voice and a strategic form of resistance.
      • A Silly Silence is unnecessary and ridiculous.
      • A Stunned Silence is a reaction to a shock.
      • A Sullen Silence is a reluctant response to some perceived oppression.
      • A Surprising Silence jolts one into a reaction.
      • A Sweet Silence is seductive and delightful.
      • A Tense Silence creates a palpable atmosphere.
      • A Transformative Silence changes a situation.
      • A Valedictory Silence bids farewell to something.
      • A Visceral Silence is raw, emotional and affecting to the core.
      • A Volatile Silence behaves unpredictably and wildly.
      • A Whimsical Silence is some kind of joke.
      • A Wistful Silence is full of a vague sense of regret.
      • A Witty Silence is all about timing.
      • A Wry Silence is used to mock.

© Andrew Hugill, 2017.