The recording I wanted to share with you today is unusual because, although it is a choral piece, it does not have a single word of text. The piece is written by the Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds (1986-) in 2018, and the only clue to its meaning the composer left in the title. It is entitled "Nyepi". It is a day on which the traditional Bali society used to celebrate New Years, and literally means "day of silence".
Observed from 6 am to 6 am the next morning, the day is reserved for self-reflection, and, as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. There is no work, entertainment, and, for some, speaking or eating. There is no lighting of fires, or electric lights. In effect, the holiday results in self-isolation that leaves the streets of Bali empty. In Hindu thought, the day of silence ensures the coming of the New Year and the continuation of history.
One day after Nyepi, known as Ngebak Geni (Relighting the Fire), social activity picks up again, families gather to ask forgiveness of one another. Fires are lit, and cooking of food resumes. It is the oldest ritual celebrated in human history.
As we are getting signs that our self-isolation may soon be drawing to a close, perhaps it would be nice to expose ourselves to a slightly different perspective on isolation. This recording is performed by VOCES8, a group that has been our regular guest these past few weeks. I thought it was interesting to set the idea of silence to music. In this context, I find it to be a thought-provoking and penetrating piece.
I hope you enjoy! And I hope you are well these days! Vlad S.