From the Editor
“Música Callada” (“Silent Music”)
Federico Mompou, 1893–1987
The Catalan composer Federico Mompou’s “Música Callada” has been a consistent companion for me during these perplexing pandemic times. In moments when I am unable to concentrate or feel the task at hand is too much (anyone who quickly learned to record and edit lecture videos for the pivot to online classes understands!), Mompou’s intricate yet accessible mediations invite me back into the work at hand, often refocusing my mind and heart. At other times, the music simply leads me back into the numb frozenness of my thoughts and feelings, enabling a momentary thawing of my inner life.
Consisting of 28 small pieces, “Música Callada” was written between 1959 and 1967 and first performed in 1974. The music moves from deeply contemplative to playful to agitated, always returning to an inner silence. The work is a mediation on St. John of the Cross’ poem “The Spiritual Canticle,” itself a meditation of The Song of Songs. The poem imagines the search for the Beloved, of the soul’s longing for God. Mompou’s title is derived from a section where the Bridegroom calls for his Bride to return to him:
My Beloved is the mountains,
The solitary wooded valleys,
The strange islands,
The roaring torrents,
The whisper of the amorous gales;
The tranquil night
At the approaches of the dawn,
The silent music,
The murmuring solitude,
The supper which revives, and enkindles love.
Music is never just the words or ideas that a work is based upon, music seems to transcend the source and inspire new interpretations. New meanings arise through the notes. In this music of silence, longing is embodied and reawakened, stirring memories of presence, hope, possibility. Or perhaps the music is simply beautiful, reminding the listener that quiet and peace in music and life can be pensive or playful or inspiring (intake of breath or Spirit) or all of this at once.
Bernardo Sassetti (Portuguese jazz pianist) seems to have felt something of this inspiration from Mompou. On his 2002 album, Nocturno, he improvises two renditions of the first movement of “Música Callada,” one with his trio (featuring a moving solo from the bassist) and the other with just Sassetti on piano. His 2005 recording, Ascent, is a further meditation on silence and contemplation, beginning with, “The Revelation of Silence” and ending the album with “The Silence of the Night.” Sassetti’s interpretation is its own call to the Beloved, wondering what might approach at the dawn after the “murmuring solitude” of night. Perhaps the rekindling of love, faith, hope.
New life and creativity often arise from the encounter with silence and stillness. As a society, we are keepers and nurturers of this beauty (both musically and spiritually). May each of you feel or sense this in your own life, as you play, teach, write, compose, and inspire!
Peace, Chelle Stearns
Chelle Stearns is Associate Professor of Theology at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology.