The series of upheavals that society has experienced over the past more than one hundred years is reﬂected in more than the catastrophe we commemorate on 13 July.
These “upheavals” affect our entire social, intellectual, and artistic life – which I in no way mean to compare to politics and which does not directly relate to it.
One such upheaval or great change in music was in the late nineteenth century, when Claude Debussy declared that the system of harmonic cadence had come to an end and that de facto any chord can be associated with any other. This revolutionary idea marked the birth of “modern music.” Shortly thereafter, Arnold Schönberg discovered the possibility of abandoning tonality and giving each tone in a twelvenote scale equal importance. And in his compositions, concerts, and lectures a little less than ﬁfty years later, John Cage demonstratively called attentionto the importance of silence.
Cage changed the concept ofthe pause, and in its place created silence. Before this, pauses had deﬁned the rhythm and phrasing of lines of music. Cage turned pauses into true silences with the same weight as sound. This step allowed for a different level of musical expression. Moreover, Cage rejected the distinction between musical and non-musical sound. “All that makes sound can be used in a composition, including silence,” he said.
All of these thoughts came to mind when I was invited by the Memorial of Silence to hold a concert on the anniversary of the BIIb Terezín family camp.
New York, 16 May 2023
The concert is held under the auspices of President of the Czech Republic Petr Pavel and Minister of Culture Martin Baxa.