reverberant silence

St John the Evangelist is an old church. It’s the oldest church in Indianapolis. It feels like “church”. High ceiling, stained glass, candles, long and narrow.

“Ubi Caritas” is an old hymn. Fifth century old. Though the setting is newer, when sung by a children’s choir, it feels like “church music”.

When you put the two together, the music and the building, some of us end up in tears. The music is full of spaces, silences. The room is full of spaces, resonance. Each silence in the music draws music from the building.

The two are perfectly built for each other.

Other pieces don’t work in this room. Pieces that pour piano notes into the space cause them to pile up, colliding with each other. Pieces with long smooth melodies seem to weave together and trip and get muddled.

When we create content, whether in writing or in speaking or in conversation or in powerpoint decks, we are wise to think of the space which will receive what we make. The physical space, yes, but the space in hearts and ears and thoughts and noise.

If there will be much mental noise, then short, loud, striking, simple.

If there will be interaction, then winding, provacative, reflective.

If there will be hurting hearts, then soothing, healing.

If there will be newly aware or thoughtfully seeking, then clear unassuming explanation.

Composers, at times, write for kinds of space.

Shouldn’t, couldn’t we?

16 responses to “reverberant silence

  1. St John the Evangelist sounds like a wonderful space. I do wish evangelicals had better taste in architecture.

  2. Yes.

    This is such a simple but powerful point… makes so much sense. Thank you for noticing what was happening and translating it for us.

    I think I’ll keep this piece for a long time.

  3. in all fairness, I’ve been in modern church, both Catholic and Protestant,
    that reflect a lack of taste…or of design.

    But I understand exactly.

  4. thank you so much, Joanna.

  5. Wow. Wow. So beautifully said.

    I’ve a keen reverence for space. Had it (space that is, and a ‘for granted’ sense of it) when I was a kid, but lost it in the hubbub of adult life.

    When I found my way back to it again it was such a relief. And with it came (slowly, mind you) the recognition that without it, nothing works very well – and what could be can’t, whether its writing or living I’m up to.

    I’m with Joanna: I think I’ll be touching-in with this reminder for a long time.

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  7. to often we have ‘stock’ presentations or what have you. Meeting the space and more importantly the people in it is a good reminder. thanks Jon.

  8. Most of what you write clicks with me, but this one really reverberated. Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Jim, was “reverberated” an intentional pun?

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  11. A great message, but since we’re talking about fitting the message to the space…

    …wouldn’t the overall post be more attractive if the photo were floated to the right instead of the left?


  12. Ike – that’s a great question. Designwise, do pictures on the right look

  13. It’s not just a left/right issue.

    It depends on your sidebar placement, and whitespace.

    In this case, it just “feels” jarring to be reading a block of text over there, then jump back over here to finish – especially since there’s no thematic break in the narrative that makes the demarcation special.

    For instance, if your copy included a declarative that was taking this instance and starting to apply the generalities, then the break would flow better.

    I can be very anal about these, but I like for there to be something to the experience of visiting my site beyond the text that comes through the RSS feed.

    Kinda like a cathedral.

  14. What a beautiful articulation of writing for the hearts, minds and spaces of others. This post truly reverberated with me.