Starr Dust: The Musical Staff as Awareness Itself


“Music is not in the notes but in the silence between them.”  – Achille-Claude Debussy,  (22 August 1862 – 25 March 1918)

Claude Debussy (pronounced day-boo-see) was a French composer whose most recognizable composition is arguably “Clair de Lune,” which means “Moonlight” in French. Find it online (I love Peter Rösel’s interpretation) and enjoy this exquisite piece as it saturates your entire being.

Music is both sound and silence, yes, but perhaps what is not as noticed as these is music as a visual experience. You may already know that music notes appear on a stave, or more commonly known as a “staff.” A staff is a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces, each representing a different musical pitch. Music symbols, depending upon the intended effect, are placed on the staff according to their corresponding pitch or function. Musical notes are placed by pitch, and rests and other symbols inform a musician how the piece is to be played.

While many readers may recognize musical symbols and notes (and some will even know what they represent and how they are expressed) most, including musicians, pay little attention to the staff itself, other than as the background canvas upon which the notes, rests and symbols are offered-up for interpretation. However, remove the staff entirely, and the musician will be challenged in how to interpret the symbols.

More adept musicians may be able to estimate the note by the relative distance between the others, especially if they are familiar with the piece, but without the staff, what remains is a cluster of individual expressions presenting to be recognized. Articulate only one symbol and you will have a single point of view. Repeat that point of view over and over and you will either grow bored or lose your mind. Articulate them all at the same time, and you will soon have a massive headache.

The musical staff can be likened to Awareness: while a single note appearing upon a staff is self-evident in its meaning, the note has no meaning without the staff. Similarly, while a point of view expressed as Awareness is self-evident in its meaning, the point of view has no meaning without Awareness. If a point of view (note) is repeated incessantly without Awareness, it will never be heard in context with other points of view (the composition). While the same points of view (notes) will begin to resonate together and grow increasingly louder, their expression is futile and counterproductive to the totality. Why?  Because there is no context; there is no contrast. As there is no one note that is better than another, the musical staff (Awareness) allows for all notes (points of view) to arise, sustain, and release, without preference.

To be introduced, suspend the analytic mind and notice what remains. Without entering into the continuum of the narrative-self, ascertain spaciousness, ascertain complete openness in the immediacy of perception. What is recognized is the intersection of the subjective/ associative mind limited by its affective range, and pristine Awareness becoming aware of itself. It’s almost as if the music notes discover their place on the musical staff, and with neither preference nor rejection, allow all the other notes to harmonize into the singular composition. This is realization. Realization is a subtle recognition that few are able to integrate, but its implicate benefits are profound.

When the mind is suspended, what results is epoché, a state of ataraxia, the complete withholding of judgmental posturing and conclusion-making. Within this suspension, what is experienced? Notice, without entering into descriptions. This realization cannot be articulated, it must be experienced. If it is at first not evident, continue in praxis as often as you remember, and it will eventually be recognized.

What arises in the noticing is the spaciousness that holds the possibility of complete freedom from mental grasping and emotional clinging; from the endless fixation upon hope and fear, desire and repulsion, and all the other polarities that keep Person spinning out in descriptions of experience. With praxis one begins to live from this spaciousness of experience – pristine potential. This potential is foreclosed by Person when collapsed in mind alone. it remains unrecognized, as philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes in his famous text “Institutionalization and Passivity,” as Person becomes imprisoned by the institutionalized cultural mind of conditioned, habituated mentation and opinion.

In the suspension of mind, Person enters into the field of existential potential, existential possibility, Awareness Itself. Awareness is the emergence of points of view within the context of the Total Pure View. Awareness is the recognition of duality within non-duality, inside to inside, here to here. Awareness is the emergence of the of the stave, or staff.

And that is where the music begins.

Parrot-loving student of existential phenomenology and its psychological implications upon the human experience.


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