The Space Between the Notes

Let’s say you are sitting on the couch listening to a terrific piece of music.

It could be Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, Bonnie Raitt, Claude Debussy

For our purposes today, let’s say it’s Mr. Debussy. He was a 19th century composer from the suburbs of Paris who tossed the traditional rules of classical music out the window and started writing new forms before the old ones even hit the sidewalk.

Martha Graham choreographed to him. Rudolf Nureyev danced to him. George Gershwin was inspired by him. You’d be hard pressed to find a Best of Classical Music compilation without him.

Sitting there on the couch listening to Mr. Debussy, you might think it was the way he arranged the notes that gave his music that aliveness.

This thinking would make sense. Good sequencing leads to good results.

But Mr. Debussy would say we were missing something. Perhaps we’re being too mechanical. Too traditional. Too spiritless in our thinking.

Because, according to Mr. Debussy, “Music is the space between the notes.”

Put another way, the rest between actions is essential to the vitality of the action.

So the music, the magic, the force of aliveness comes not only from the notes we make, but from the pauses we take.

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