We organized our sessions in different messy classrooms filled with chairs, desks and instruments. Sometimes we were able to book a chamber music hall, which offered a nice atmosphere. I needed a piano to play, otherwise there were no special requirements. Kirsi said that she can dance anywhere, which made a huge impression on me.
In the first meeting (only Kirsi and I), we figured that it would be nice to invite the silence in by shutting up for a while. When two or more people meet, talk is there all the time, so we decided to sit down or lie on the floor to be in silence for a couple of minutes (10’–20’). After the first session, ‘silence in the beginning of our sessions’ was established. Here are some notes made after our silences:
26.1.2016 (Kirsi & Anu)
Meditation for 15 minutes; on yoga mats; Kirsi was sitting on a wooden conductor’s stand; we turned the lights off and I was sitting sideways to Kirsi, not face-to-face, I was experiencing my own space AND the space with another person (Kirsi), my mind going here and there, I changed my position, finally I accepted that I’m being silent and I could have continued for so much longer.
10.3.2016 (Kirsi, Petri & Anu)
We started with silence for 10 minutes. The moment was special to me, since the audition for the professorship might be held here in Wegelius Hall (Sibelius Academy). I’m thinking about my own space, the way I experience this particular space (Wegelius Hall) and I notice that I’m tense – I have a stomach ache. I wondered, could I somehow feel good here? Maybe. I would like to play the Variations [by Szymanowski, Op. 3] and Calypso [Szymanowski, Op. 29], but I’m not sure whether I will have the space to do so, or whether Kirsi is going to be loud today [in our ‘praxis’ part]. Loudness could ruin the performance.
30.3.2016 (Kirsi & Anu)
Kirsi has been crying. Fuck. We went to the big dance hall in Teak [Theatre Academy], a lovely place. We meditated for 10 minutes, I was standing, I positioned myself close to Kirsi not to have direct eye contact but something else like that. I sensed Kirsi’s state of mind, I tried to breathe and to relax my hands.
(…) Kirsi hadn’t been crying, she’s allergic.
20.4.2016 (Kirsi, Petri & Anu)
We started with a 15-minute silence. Making noise with my chair made me laugh. I realized how well I feel with these people. I feel calm, I lose the urge to fulfil different expectations, I feel that I can focus on the essential issues right away. (...)
16.2.2017 (Kirsi, Petri & Anu)
We started to talk and then moved to the silence. Being silent showed how constant talking can be destructive. I can hide my thinking with my talk and hence prevent fruitful ideas from coming out. When I forced myself to be silent for twelve minutes, I got a clear vision of how we could write an article for one of the RC journals. The RC platform may really help us to clarify our thoughts for others.
The uniqueness of our group is in the fact that in it I feel safer and more relaxed than usual in my work. During an intensive week of work, it was odd to have a two-hour session where nobody sets any demands or regulations to follow. We met, we went into the room and we started our session with 15 minutes of silence. Then we discussed what to do next. The freedom of doing absolutely nothing was most fruitful: as soon as we decided to forget any obligations, we started to notice and point out essential issues and created several ways to proceed. There certainly was something really useful and meaningful in our working methods. Effortlessness.
We added silent moments all over our project, since we noticed that they help us in many ways. The possibility of being silent with my colleagues feels like a luxury. Normally all academic meetings start with discussion or planning or some other kind of efficient action. Normally, I feel the urge to show that I’m in the mood, ready for effective work or high-level music making. Normally, I need to show that…(whatever).
The silence allowed me to perceive my inner state of mind. Some of the excerpts above point to – not only concerns in learning the musical works but – anxiety due to the turbulence in academic life. The beauty of these silences is that they belong to the same academic life: this is an academic, artistic project, but instead of obligations, there is loads of space and freedom. On the other hand, the silences in our project don’t happen alone; I’m in silence with one or two other persons. This seems to strengthen our collaboration: we don’t just discuss but also are together in silence; we write and we carry out our praxes together. Usually this never happens in a world filled with talk.
In Kallio-Kuninkala, The Sibelius Academy Music Centre (8–9 March 2017), on the second morning we forgot to have the usual silent moment together. After breakfast, we immediately started to work with our new article. That was probably because we already felt safe and free. We had spent a whole day in Järvenpää with beautiful nature around us, enjoying good food, peace and quiet. We were so focused on the work that there was no need for ‘clearing our minds’ by being silent together. In Kallio-Kuninkala, we were detached from the fragmentary, academic work life and were able to focus our energy on the demanding act of writing.