On Writing. On Silence.

In spring of 2002, as I was crashing and burning in a job that did not suit me, and as
I wrestled with the ramifications of that tailspin – I was employed at one of the best
music schools in the world, I was making my mark in a way that attracted attention,
I had mentors, serious mofos in the business, telling me that if I could stick to it for
20 years or so, I could claim any top job I wanted at a major American music school,
and despite the future I could clearly see, the clear path in front of me, I was not

While I thought about leaving, I had a vision. The job I had required nearly non-stop
talking to people, and what I saw, on more than one occasion, was a day where I was
sitting quietly, with nothing to say. I saw hours of silence, I saw myself surrounded
by people but disengaged, quiet, and I felt a silence brewing within that I could not
name or describe- a point where there were no more words coming from me, a
point where nothing sounded right, a point where I simply sat still, silent.
I thought when I left the job in May 2002 that I would lapse into that silence. I did
not. True, I fell into a major depression that lasted for months, perhaps a year, and
there were many days I did not leave our apartment. But I was full of words. They
were all ready to come out. And come out they did, once the stars re-aligned and I
had the chance to talk, and write again. From Fall 2004 on, I was a non-stop babble
machine. Hundreds of essays in American Record Guide, DPO program notes, hours
and hours of lectures both at school and in public, papers, thoughts, basically,
constant energy. Once unleashed, I did not stop.

Even when I slowed down, I still cranked out blog posts here on Open G. Notes,
ideas, thoughts, letters, and in the classroom and studio, hours and hours of talking.
If you know me, you know I don’t engage in brevity. An hour lesson block is barely
enough to cover everything. Hell, even my Facebook posts push the 500 word mark
a lot.

But that silence I saw back in 2002? It has finally crept in. I can go for days where I
have little, if anything to say. I sit down to write, and I can only stare. I wish I had
an explanation, e.g. I have worn myself out, or I finally realized I have little of value
to add, or something profound. But I can’t say that. I still crave the 500 word essay
spilling effortlessly from my fingers with Mozartian grace. I crave the attention, the
accolades, the feedback. But there is nothing.

So I propose that it is time to re-launch my blog presence. I need to explain the silence. I need to push back against it. I need the babble. I can revel in the quiet as it makes me happy at times, but I can’t be quiet for good, especially as the world pushes to new levels of precarious balance, as all I hold dear is under threat, and on a personal level, as I continue to struggle with the deaths of family and close friends. Maybe I have been saving up a howl at the moon. Maybe my vision of quiet was the worse case scenario- a vision of where I could be if I gave up.

I’m not going to do that yet.



Chris Chaffee is a flutist, a professor at Wright State University, and Vice President of Keepin' It Real for Open G Records