List of silent musical compositions

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


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.

After Paul Hindemith read this, he suggested a work consisting of nothing but pauses and fermatas in 1916.[2]

Classical compositions[edit]

A number of classical compositions consisting primarily of silence have been composed since 1896:

  • Il Silenzio: pezzo caratteristico e descrittivo (stile moderno) (1896) by "Samuel", a pseudonym, probably Edgardo Del Valle de Paz [it]; published in the Year 1. Vol. 1. Nº11. Supplement of the journal La Nuova Musica.

"Samuel was attempting a different means of writing one of his humorous critiques on musical society, mainly in Florence. All the techniques used are well developed and extremely diversified for a piece having no pitch and with a skill that only Erik Satie could match at that time. He highlights and questions every compositional cliché that was in vogue during the period among traditional Italian composers and the growth of modernist avant-garde arts, using humor as a mechanism of critique".[3]

Twenty-four 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."[4]

silent; notated in great rhythmic detail, employing bizarre time signatures and intricate rhythmic patterns.[5]

The band was going through all the motions: the swart, longish-haired leader led away; the brasses, the saxophones, the clarinets made a great show of fingering and blowing, but the only sound from the stage was a rhythmic swish-swish from the trap-drummer, a froggy slap-slap from the bull-fiddler, a soft plunk-plunk from the pianist.[6]

in two movements, a single 20-minute sustained chord followed by a 20-minute silence[7]

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."[8]

Found on pages 295-297 of Source: Music of the Avant Garde magazine, Issue No. 9. Performers/listeners are to rub their fingers against pieces of fur interpreting the texture of the fur as they may within their heads. This may often result in silence.



  • Silent Tracks of Various Useful Lengths, a 2010 album by Brett Black consisting of 8 tracks of silence, was the first completely silent album to be commercially available through the iTunes Store.[10]
  • The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan, satirical LP issued by Stiff Records in 1980. (Side one is "The Wit" and side two "The Wisdom", both are divided into multiple tracks but are silent.)
  • Rosemary Brown Psyches Again!, a 1982 Enharmonic Records LP by David DeBoor Canfield. (Side one contains parodies of works supposedly taken down by British psychic Rosemary Brown from deceased composers. Side two is silent and contains an Introduction by Marcel Marceau and a "discussion" by Johann Sebastian Bach and Johannes Brahms on the musical merits of Rosemary's Brown's efforts.)
  • Sleepify, a 2014 album by Vulfpeck consisting of 10 tracks of silence. The album was released on the music streaming service Spotify and generated $20,000 in royalty over a two-month period. It exposed a loophole in the streaming service's royalty calculation model.[11]
  • Epater Les Bourgeois and Simphonie In O Minor by The New Blockaders in 1985 / 1991.
  • tranquility by LOIKE in 2021.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Busoni, Ferruccio (1911). Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music. New York: G. Schirmer. p. 23.
  2. ^ da Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna (21 April 2013). "Slyly Pricking the Wagnerian Balloon". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2013.
  3. ^ Pena, Eder (2020). "Unsilencing the Silence: Unacknowledged Silent Pieces". Opus. 26 (3): 1–26. doi:10.20504/opus2020c2617.
  4. ^ Whiting, Steven Moore (1999). Satie the Bohemian: From Cabaret to Concert Hall. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 81n. ISBN 9780191584527.
  5. ^ Betz, Marianne (1999). "In futurum – von Schulhoff zu Cage". Archiv für Musikwissenschaft. 56 (4): 331–346. doi:10.2307/931056. JSTOR 931056. includes one facsimile, p. 335
  6. ^ "Music: Silent Music". Time. 1941.
  7. ^ Yves Klein, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein (Spring Publications, 2007)
  8. ^ Silverman, Kenneth (2010). Begin Again: A Biography of John Cage. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. p. 184. ISBN 9780307594570.
  9. ^ Asbell, Bernard (April 1958). "The Little World of Orville K. Snav". Playboy.
  10. ^ "The First Album Of Silent Music Available For Digital Download Is Now Making Some Noise". PRWeb. Retrieved 2017-03-28.
  11. ^ "How Vulfpeck Album Sleepify Used Spotify Loophole to Earn $20,000". October 1, 2015. Archived from the original on October 5, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2016.