Silence can be thought of as the nothingness transcending sound, or an only apparently empty vessel containing sonic multitudes. In Silentium, a new long piece from Greek composer Yiorgis Sakellariou, silence manages to be both.
The basis for Silentium is a set of recordings Sakellariou made of church bells, organs and ambient sounds during a residency in Prague in December, 2015. The finished work is a long, single composition of nearly fifty minutes.
Appropriately enough, Silentium begins in silence or near silence. By the eight-minute mark an organ drone presents itself as a thick, unsettling and unsettled chord that abruptly fades away into the quiet ebb and flow of a high-frequency tingling. The rest of the piece is a natural progression of seeming waves of thunder or rushes of wind, the distant sounds of chiming bells, falling rain, birdsong, and sounds whose sources can only be guessed at. Throughout, there are long stretches where nothing seems to happen—just as there are sudden upsurges of sound, sometimes dramatically loud, sometimes unexpectedly persistent. The intermittency of sounds and silences serves to emphasize both as in essence temporally finite phenomena, each standing at the limit of the other.
In sum, Silentium is a recording with a lot of space in it. In fact, space seems to be its subject: Space as exemplified in silence and in the ambient sounds that frequently stand in for silence, thereby not incidentally providing an aural map of a specific physical territory.