CROSSTALK No. 004: “Silence”

It seems ironic, but one of the things that a sound engineer appreciates most, like the character of Sandra Bullock in the movie “Gravity” in the middle of space, is silence. We may never hear that sidereal vacuum completely. Moreover, few sites are below 35 dbA of noise level, but it is enough to satisfy our search and emotional peace. It’s only at times, maybe fractions, but necessary. Indispensable to establish our dynamic range, to perceive our feeling after a “Tutti”, or to finally relax after finishing the “fade out” of a ballad. Vital to listen to the fall of a good reverberation and understand a particular plane, and without a doubt, our best ally to listen to the harmonics of an instrument.

Silence is music, it even has its nomenclature represented in the pentagram, it is an essential part to accommodate other sounds, other instruments; as well as generate or interrupt a rhythmic pattern. It is important for the singer to breathe, swallow, let the phrases rest, or the rapper unfolds at his ease and fill it with syllables. Its absolute presence in a melody makes us count, lead a rhythm in anonymity, prepare for a mambo, a chorus, an interlude or the coda.

Silence in a studio, in a recording session, is perhaps one of the most important things that a sound engineer must learn to do. Let the communication flow between musicians and producers, allow the music to speak and the atmosphere to relax. Know how to interpret when they are silent, to let them think or break a moment of tension with some positive, encouraging or humorous comment. On a stage, it can be overwhelming and disturbing but in the audience, it can be synonymous with an intimate accomplice who listens carefully.

When we are in supreme silence, as in a good control room or recording studio, near the NC 25 that Dolby® asks for as a requirement, sometimes our ears whistle, we begin to listen to our insides and inevitably we begin to talk to break that sensation. They talk about the record in an anechoic room where the noise level is -9.4 dbA, I do not want to imagine it.

Silence is …

NC measurement at Gustavo González’s 360 Studio in Caracas.