In early 2001, the Norwegian folk duo Kings of Convenience released their debut album Quiet Is the New Loud. Channeling Simon and Garfunkel but with a more lackadaisical European pop sensibility, Kings of Convenience offered serious, beautiful melodies that went down gently. When my wife and I saw Kings of Convenience in concert at a small club in 2005, the band would not perform until the bartenders turned off the buzzing credit card machines that were processing people’s tabs. The sounds the band were about to make had to be set against total stillness. Music could not just be one more set of noises among others.
After a twelve-year recording hiatus, Kings of Convenience are back with a new album, Peace or Love. And for an increasingly noisy world, the timing is perfect.
Quietness—and better yet, silence—is obviously native to our Catholic ascetical tradition, and we have some fine reminders to encourage us into it. The magnificent film Into Great Silence reminds us of a whole other reality that a faithful few have chosen in rejection of the world’s chaos. And for those of us with unbreakable ties to a louder, more mainstream existence, Cardinal Robert Sarah’s The Power of Silence encourages us to find the still, small voice of the Lord in our everyday lives. And then there’s sacred music, holy silence’s natural partner. As the demon Screwtape says to Wormwood in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters: “Music and silence—how I detest them both!”