Doc: The Silence in Between

Broadcast Date: April 19th, 6pm Dublin (7pm Amsterdam or 1pm Eastern)

The journey to silence is both an outer one, with a search to understand the different types of musical silence, and an inner one, with the search for silence within oneself.

Here’s a three-minute video about the ideas behind the documentary…

Silence might at first seem straightforward in music – the notes stop playing, that’s all. But it’s not that simple. The more you listen to silence, the more interesting it becomes, as John Cage said. Pianist and radio host Guy Livingston takes us on a journey from the pauses of medieval chant, through silences in Monteverdi, Mahler, Pärt, and beyond. He meets Monica Germino, a violinist who pioneered the “whisperviolin” after her hearing became difficult; Romain Charles, an astronaut who spent 520 days in isolation on a simulated mission to Mars; Luis Rolo, an antenna engineer from the European Space Agency; and Sean Street, author of a book on silence. Jane Clarke’s poem “The Pianist” concludes this feature.

violin mutes from Monica’s extraordinary collection (she has hundreds more!)




Monica Germino, violinist, Amsterdam, 

Seán Street, professor emeritus, Bournemouth University

Luis Rolo, antenna measurement engineer, European Space Agency, Noordwijk

Romain Charles, support engineer, European Space Agency, Köln

Jane Clarke, poet, Wicklow


a selfie with Luis Rolo and Guy Livingston in the Hertz Anechoic Chamber at the European Space Agency (Noordwijk, The Netherlands)



Seán links 

Monica links

ESA links 

Jane Clarke


  • This version of her reading the poem was recorded at MoLI, by Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, Digital Curator, Museum of Literature Ireland:

  • Jane Clarke’s pamphlet ‘All the Way Home’, is published by Smith Doorstop Books (2019)

Sound Design



photo credit: European Space Agency

Romain Charles, from France, is the Crew Support Unit Lead at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany. Romain has a Master’s in Engineering and was the Flight Engineer for Mars500, a cooperative project between the European Space Agency and the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP), which ran the first full duration simulation of a manned flight to Mars in 2010/2011. The purpose of the Mars500 study was to gather data, knowledge and experience to help prepare for a real mission to Mars. 


Photo Credit: Sean Street

Sean Street (born 1946, Waterlooville, Hampshire) is a writer, poet, broadcaster, and Britain’s first Professor of Radio. He retired from full-time academic life in 2011 and was awarded an Emeritus Professorship by Bournemouth University. He continues to write and broadcast. He is also a Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Monica Germino, photo by Anne Reinke

Amsterdam-based, American/Dutch violinist Monica Germino is on the cutting edge of new music. Hailed by The Sunday Times (UK) as a ‘striking presence’ whose ‘virtuosity was exhilarating,’ she has collaborated with such composers as Louis Andriessen, John Cage, Heiner Goebbels, Michael Gordon, David Lang, György Ligeti, and Julia Wolfe. Together with sound designer Frank van der Weij, she has presented multimedia programs worldwide. Her performances often feature singing and playing simultaneously. She co-founded the international ensemble ELECTRA and now serves as its artistic advisor. MUTED, her latest solo program, is a collective work for violin, voice, whisperviolin, frame violins, a multitude of mutes, and light design.

Originally from a farm in Roscommon, Jane Clarke now lives in Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow. When the Tree Falls is shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award 2020 and the Farmgate Café National Poetry Award 2020. In 2016 she won the Hennessy Literary Award for Emerging Poetry with three poems from The River. She also won the inaugural Listowel Writers’ Week Poem of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. The River was shortlisted for the Royal Society for Literature Ondaatje Award, given for a distinguished work of fiction or non-fiction evoking the spirit of a place.



  • Hugh Livingston for his splendid advice on noise and silence;
  • Aletta Becker, who helped me get the story organized;
  • Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim for her article in the New York Times which suggested many marvelous musical examples;
  • Gijs Hulscher, who advised a silent retreat in Belgium;
  • Erika Verbelen and Loraine Conroy at the European Space Agency;
  • Mai Wada, who helped me better understand the japanese concept of ‘ma’;
  • Kees Went, brilliant thinker on space and sound;
  • Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, Digital Curator, Museum of Literature Ireland;
  • Helane Anderson, insightful friend and expert on inner silence;
  • Zapsplat for traffic and forest sound effects;
  • and for their inspiration and advice: Anders Jallèn, Ned McGowan; Clara Azambourg; Alanna Battat; Claire Cunningham; and Maria Sperling.
One comment to “Doc: The Silence in Between”
  1. Pingback: Guy talks about…”silence and place” – Guy Livingston

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