crane flying alone

photo: Creative Commons (nuzree)

When I was in high school I sang in a chorus, and at some point, our choir director told us a definition of music. She said that music is: organized sound and silence.

How cool, I thought. What a neat definition: organized sound and silence. It made sense.

And over the years, I continued to sing a lot, and with time, and my experience of singing, I found this definition to be true… but not, I decided, completely true. Music, I found, was more. Yes, it was orgnized sound and silence, but it also had… feeling. Music carries feeling and evokes feeling. It allows us to feel feelings when we listen to it.

So this morning, we’re going to play with a song – one which I think does a particularly good job showing how music is a blend of sound and silence… the presence of sound AND the absence of sound.

We’re going to sing the song, “Bingo.” [Pause and listen for murmurs of recognition.] Raise your hand if you’re familiar with this song. If you know the song, what kinds of feelings does this song evoke for you? [Repeat answers; expect ones like: fun, happy, silly….]

Thank you. Now, I’m going to sing the song through once, to help you learn it, and if you know it, please join me.

[Here is a link to a YouTube video of the song, if you don’t know it: Bingo Song.  Note that this version of the song replaces the letters with a clap. We’re going to replace them with silence. Just sing it a cappella.]

Now, the way this song works, is first we sing it through like we just did. Then, we sing it again, and that second time, when we get to the part of spelling out B-I-N-G-O, we take out the “B” and replace it with a little blob of silence. [You can demonstrate it if you think it will help.] Then, the third time through, we take out the “B” and the “I” and replace them both with silence, and only sing the “N-G-O.” And the fourth time… you get the pattern, yes, we remove one more letter each time through until we get to a round where ALL there is, is a big bunch of silence!

Now, if you need to keep track of where we are in the song, you can listen to the song in an imaginary way in your own head. I’ll keep the tempo up here, so watch me, because with all that silence it’s easy to get lost in the song. And then, after that last time through, we’ll sing it once more a little slower and a little louder, and with a little more drama. Okay, are you ready? [Sing it through!]

Thanks for the fun with the sound and silence!


This Reflection accompanied a sermon I preached about learning to see what’s unseen and invisible. It heavily covered the concept of the three curricular forms of explicit, implicit, and null. The silence in this reflection represents at least the implicit curriculum, or possibly the null one, depending on your philisophy of whether silence is something we hear or not!

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