Emptiness and Origin

Emptiness is the void. Silence is the void. The place of origin from which all comes and to which all returns. Silence is key. Without it there is no music. Debussy said, “Music is the silence between the notes.” Think about that. Music is the silence between the notes.

Silence is space, space is physical – the earth, the chair, the wall. Space is air – the atmosphere. Space is resonance. If singing the notes of a song is music, the silence that follows is divinity. It is where the inscrutable is felt and heard.

The call to art emerges from that void. The courage to heed the call, to undertake the study, to find the teachers and read the books. The impulse to explore, to discover, to drop what we are doing and sing, to throw on a CD and dance, to immerse ourselves

in the rhythm of music, to play, to turn a new page. It all comes from the emptiness. The determination to practice. The fear. The doubt. The voices in the head. Ours, theirs. The persistent tuning into what begins to move within us, to uncoil itself and express itself. That bone-level feeling of destiny. The inspiration for the first step and then all subsequent steps that begin to be felt, to be known as the career that slowly begins to unfold. It all comes from the emptiness. All utterances, tones, expressions, exhalations, intentions. And into the emptiness they return.


The silence following a song can be deafening, can it not? That moment that hangs heavy in the air just before the first sound breaks in – a sigh, a gasp, a chuckle, applause. That silence, still pregnant with the sweet echo of purposefulness and connection. Of origin.

We must cultivate the silence in our work. Learn to empty ourselves again and again – between phrases, between songs, between acts, between performances, between days, between seasons. We must learn to trust the silence. Learn to move within it, shape it, harness it, use it, speak with it. So that we continually resemble that from which we came and which is continually seeking to express itself through us.

What is emptiness to you?


About Karen Kohler

Born in Frankfurt and raised in New York, Karen began her professional music career in Austin. Since returning to NYC in 2001, she has been a leading exponent of the cabaret arts as performer, director, producer and historian. Her performances blend multiple genres - classical, cabaret, jazz, blues and folk-rock - in six languages. She is founder of the award-winning ensemble, Kabarett Kollektif, and producer of Kabarett Fete, a celebrated international cabaret festival. Karen gives private lessons and conducts master classes in stagecraft, the art of public speaking and creativity coaching. View all posts by Karen Kohler

2 responses to “Emptiness and Origin

  • Madryt

    Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll definitely return.


    • Karen Kohler

      Thank you for your comments, Madryt. I will be posting a new entry this week. Been very busy with a new recording project, Little Death, that I have launched on Kickstarter. If you are interested, follow this link:

      Here’s to stagecraft and dreams!


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