List of silent musical compositions

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This is a list of musical works which consist mostly or entirely of silence.

Classical compositions[edit]

Some composers have discussed the significance of silence or a silent composition without ever composing such a work. In his 1907 manifesto, Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music, Ferruccio Busoni described its significance:[1]

That which, within our present-day music, most nearly approaches the essential of the art, is the Rest and the Hold (Pause). Consummate players, improvisers, know how to employ these instruments of expression in loftier and ampler measure. The tense silence between two movements—in itself music, in this environment—leaves wider scope for divination than the more determinate, but therefore less elastic, sound.

When Hindemith read that, he proposed a work consisting of nothing but pauses and fermatas.[2]

  • Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man (1897) by Alphonse Allais, a French humorist (1854-1905)

Nine blank measures. Earlier title: "Great sorrows are mute: incoherent funeral march". The composer instructed: "Great sorrows being mute, the performers should occupy themselves with the sole task of counting the bars, instead of indulging in the kind of indecent row that destroys the august character of the best obsequies."[3]

silent; notated in great rhythmic detail, employing bizarre time signatures and intricate rhythmic patterns.[4]

in two movements, a single 20-minute sustained chord followed by a 20-minute silence[5]

silent; in three movements lasting a total of four minutes and 33 seconds, for any instrument or combination of instruments

also known as 0'00"; the performer determines the extent to which the piece is silent, mostly silent, noisy, or raucous.

The composer instructed: "In a situation provided with maximum amplification, perform a disciplined action. The performer should allow any interruptions of the action, the action should fulfill an obligation to others, the same action should not be used in more than one performance, and should not be the performance of a musical composition."[6]


Revisions and sourced additions are welcome.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Busoni, Ferruccio (1911). Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music. NY: G. Schirmer. p. 23. 
  2. ^ da Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna (21 April 2013). "Slyly Pricking the Wagnerian Balloon". New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Whiting, Steven Moore (1999). Satie the Bohemian: From Cabaret to Concert Hall. NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 81n. 
  4. ^ Betz, Marianne (1999). ""In futurum" - von Schulhoff zu Cage". Archiv für Musikwissenschaft 56 (4): 331ff.  includes one facsimile, p. 335
  5. ^ Yves Klein, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein (Spring Publications, 2007)
  6. ^ Silverman, Kenneth (2010). Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage. NY: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 184. 
  7. ^ Asbell, Bernard (April 1958). "The Little World of Orville K. Snav". Playboy. 
  8. ^