Career silence can be an intimidating prospect for artists and creatives weathering high levels of success or relative obscurity. As with the art and practice of jazz improvisation, there may be a temptation to fill bars of career silence with content for the sake of visibility or relevance among peers to maintain or gain marketplace territory in the in-between, resulting in atonal content that dilutes their artistic voice and creative vision. In an era where perpetual presence in the marketplace has become a metric for commercial value and relevance, how can artists better maximize and embrace periods of career silence, whether incidental or self-imposed, and avoid the trap of creating for likes and visibility?
A key factor towards successfully navigating pockets of career silence is in the ability to recognize the valleys within the career arc as advantageous versus punitive or detrimental. These seemingly vacant bars of professional engagement present an unmeasured opportunity for the sharpening of content and skill for artists and creatives. When paired with mindfulness, the practice of immersion during career silences can inform an artist’s strategy towards their quest to realize their highest creative truth.
Iconic artists such as Sadé, D’Angelo—and most recently rapper and producer J.Cole—have employed self-imposed career silence towards the fermenting of their creative. This level of cultivation is also evident throughout the work of Hip-Hop legends, A Tribe Called Quest, in their active quest towards harnessing the potency and truth anchoring their work. On the jazz-infused classic, Midnight Marauders, ATCQ spelled out their underlying mantra and mission statement: the “marauding for ears”. The artistic strategy and content towards that end can only be achieved through thoughtful disciplines taken during the periods of silence presented throughout an artist’s career. These silences when fully maximized allow for purposeful aim towards artistic directives and goals, resulting in a canon of work carrying the power to break down gentrified walls of conformity, artistic complacency and commercialism within the marketplace and culture.
The aforementioned power and potency, cultivated through silence, is illustrated in scripture in the Israelites’ victory against the city of Jericho. The Creator confirmed the Israelites’ victory over the city to Moses’ successor, Joshua--instructing the Israelite soldiers to march around the perimeter of Jericho’s fortified walls seven times over the course of seven days, preceded by seven priests with trumpets and the Ark of the Covenant—(the number seven signifying completion and the Creator’s perfection). The soldiers marched once a day for six days in silence, followed by a final day of seven rounds of marching around the city and a final victory shout—resulting in the walls of Jericho collapsing.
In this instance, silence was used as a weapon—a harnessing of strength, confidence, focus and solidarity, as well as a sharpening of awareness of the Creator’s presence and power—paired with the physical encircling of their goal. In parallel, career silences can hold the same power for artists and creatives when paired with actions taken towards the encircling of their goals to realize their artistic directives.
The valleys of silence within the careers of artists and creatives provide a wealth of opportunities towards the cultivation of craft, artistic purpose, and the shaping of creative potency and truth.