What is the sound of no CD playing?
Is the sound of no CD playing the silence that Erling Kagge explored, Ajahn Sumedho identified, and John Cage immortalised? Or is it the sound of streamed music like water? Maybe it is the same sound as no audience clapping or perhaps the eerie silence of a hall emptied by lazy click bait programming. Or is it just the relentless white noise of social media?
Whatever the answer - if indeed there is an answer - 'What is the sound of no CD playing' is an example of a translogical question known in the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism - hat tip to John Cage - as a koan. In his book Bring Me the Rhinoceros John Tarrant explains that koans highlight the importance of creative moves, encourage doubt and curiosity, and undermine reasons and explanations.
My undiminished curiosity and distrust of explanations led me to buy two recent CD releases - Sangam from sitarist Paul Livingstone and cellist Pete Jacobson, and Wherever I Go... Arvo Pärt from Gretsch White Falcon guitarist Gunter Herbig. These superficially very different releases in fact share many noteworthy attributes, one of which is excellent sleeve essays. Both of these thoughtful essays try successfully to justify instrumental projects - ragas on sitar and cello, and Arvo Pärt transcribed for electric guitar - that, like koans, undermine conventional wisdom. But this justification is unnecessary, because good music is good music regardless of the instrument it is played on.