Silence as a point of departure
An installation
The project
This was an installation project that evolved from an invitation to collaborate by Pilar Tomás Gonzalez, Director of the Semana de Música Religiosa in Cuenca, Spain. This is a classical music festival, the oldest of its kind in Europe. The opening of the exhibit initiated the 2010 edition of the festival at large, the participation of Peter Greenaway closed it, with a documentary named The Marriage (inspired by the painting The Wedding at Cana, by Paolo Veronese). The film was a co-production of the Semana de Música Religiosa and the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, Italy.
The installation, sponsored by the Fundación Antonio Saura, included three projectors, 120 images, the video Mountain breath and Aural path, a sound space composed for the project (links to these pieces are included below). The venue where it was set up is the nave of a XVII Century de-sacralized church, part of the Ex-convento de las Angélicas (now the gallery of the Novillo Art School).
Its completion took approximately one year.
When I was invited to do this project and saw the beautiful space it would occupy, it became clear I needed to do something adequate and purposely for it, beyond hanging images on the walls. In a very organic way, the idea of using sound  came about, for the first time used in combination with my imagery.
The exploration started with the idea of depicting an internal space through the use of sound. Half way through the assembly process, I realized that the piece was an acoustic metaphor for the experience of sitting meditation. When you seek silence through meditation, you will probably encounter a number of elements before you get anywhere close to the absence of mental "noise". This multitude of voices and messages the mind produces, constitute responses to stimuli from external and internal sources (as well as your own body's signals, memories and associations) — become dramatically apparent as you watch the breath, like a parade of "stuff"; triggered by your beliefs, expectations, concerns, fears, desires, etc.
As you make progress in the practice, gaps of mental silence eventually start appearing, to be dispelled by new distractions that come into your mental space. The idea is to "smilingly" (as S.N. Goenka says), set those aside and go back to the breath. Similarly, in Aural path, there are some constant elements—like the crows or acorns falling on the roof of our home—and a few occasional events, a bell, voices and a boy singing; all being used for their metaphoric (and perhaps visual) value. The result is an acoustical environment that transmits my interpretation of the space I describe above.


Mountain Breath, 2009, video 3:00 min.
Aural Path, audio, 15 min.
This sound composition*, of my authorship, looped in the installation with periods of silence in between. It includes sounds created by Hans Timmermans, in use under the Creative Commons Law / www.freesound.org
*Recommended to be heard at a very low volume in a quiet environment.

© German Herrera 2020