Katie Rose
from: Katie Rose
Category: General Discussion

Words and Wordlessness

Words and Wordlessness                                                   
It has been challenging writing this month’s article mainly because I encountered some welcome wordlessness and some deep processing within that silence.  No words wanted to come and dance on my page.  Now, they do.  I really appreciate this dance between sound and silence, which underpins my whole experience of music.  

I have recently been having encounters which have affirmed for me afresh the value of words and wordlessness.  I found myself sitting in silence with a newly met beloved and enjoying the liberation of letting the need for conventional conversation drop away.  Then a beloved wrote me such a beautiful affirmation in an email that I was deeply moved to reflect on the power of words.  That day, on the wall of the great virtual word-world that is Facebook, this quote emerged:

Words have a magical power. They can bring either the greatest happiness or deepest despair; they can transfer knowledge from teacher to student; words enable the orator to sway his audience and dictate its decisions. Words are capable of arousing the strongest emotions and prompting all men's actions. - Sigmund Freud                                           
It is easy to forget the truly magical power of words in the daily barrage of social chit-chat.  Talk is cheap as the old saying goes and there is plenty of it everywhere.   But in truth, word is encapsulated intent, containing information and conveyed with energy.  The ancients all knew that naming something was a magical act, hence why so many creation mythologies start with a sacred word or big bang.  Our name is our sonic tag allowing us to be found in the world and it is the power of naming that enables us to identify and process our experience of reality.   When for example we name our shame and release it in therapy, we are liberated by the flow of the energy - emotion - that words constitute.  We are also able to attune to any number of frequencies simply by naming them - hence why mantras are full of sacred names of divinities and life-enhancing qualities.

‘Let there be light’ certainly blew the cosmic circuit board and spiritual teachers are constantly reminding us of how we literally command our reality into being with the words we choose.  We sculpt our existence by sending our intent out into the world on the sound wave of speech and are shaped by the impact of receiving other people’s words.

For me, the sound sculpture of words is always accompanied and supported by silence.  For words are simply gestures towards our reality and as such are not reality itself.  Many experiences in life are beyond words and find their expression through sound, shape, colour, light, movement and silence.  In the gap between words and the reality they describe is a magical place of possibility where the spoken and unspoken dance.  The honesty of silence allows that gap to be felt and experienced and for a deep acknowledgement to occur of the vastness that is beyond words.   There is nothing like the silence that falls at the end of a piece of music or a full resonant chant.  Deva and Miten Premal say that they sing for the silence.  It is pure indescribable nectar for the soul.  


Writing this, I have realised that my own journey of voice proceeds from my heritage of sound and silence.  My maternal grandmother was quietened at the age of four when she lost her hearing. She married a parson for the deaf, my grandfather, who was the hearing child of deaf parents and was a pioneer for the deaf community.  A highly expressive man, he was a great performer who always had a magic trick, joke or story to tell.  He used the power of the written word to promote awareness of Sign Language, the silent speech of the deaf world, in his book Please Sign Here.  My paternal grandmother was shy, gentle and quietly spoken and my father tells me that he can’t remember his grandmother saying anything.  My paternal grandfather was highly artistic and expressive, exploring painting, photography and landscaping an amazing garden which was magical to explore as a child.

This heritage of sound and silence continues to teach me. I have learned to honour and appreciate the quiet gentleness of the unspoken realms and have been lead to work with those who have no voice - from those with different abilities who communicate non-verbally to those who feel they cannot sing.   I have experienced deep companionship with those who speak through minimal sounds and have come to realise the value of the sound current in its vastly differing expressions in the world.  My artistic and creative heritage has lead me to explore writing, music, chant, mantra, theatre, performance and ritual as mediums of personal and social transformation.  The dance continues.

Music is formed from this dance of sound and silence, of the spaces and the resonances and within it that which cannot be spoken is said and that which is spoken is silenced. The deeply restorative wave of musical form is a three dimensional experience - moving as it does through the spoken spaces and silent songs within us.  Its rhythmic pulsation liberates breath and life-force enabling our innate creative intelligence to awaken.  In Sanskrit the word for the heart chakra - Anahata - means unstruck or unbeaten referring the the unstruck sound that is both soundless and deeply resonant within us.  Sound us takes us back to that place, striking chords that return us to the wordless wonder.


In the depth of my heart there is a wordless song - Kahlil Gibran

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