Listen to some music and see if you can hear the space between the notes.
That space is the liminal space, and it’s the one in which the music exists.
Consider that one note does not constitute music.
It’s one tone. One sound. One piece. One component. Something that lands and ends.
It is a sound, for sure. And it is musical, no doubt. But I’m not positive it’s music. (And I do reserve the right to change my mind.)
Music happens, I believe, when a string of notes and the spaces in between connect and allow the listener to engage in a process of satisfaction and anticipation. As one moment shifts to the next, the listener is left in a sometimes split-second space of hunger and yearning. Then the next note lands, satisfies the listener (or doesn’t, in the case of bad music), and immediately sends him off into the next space in between.
Music that takes care of its notes and spaces is the music that literally moves us.
When we dance to music, we land on the notes, and we move in the space in between. Or we land on the space in between, and we move in the notes. No matter what, we move from here to there, constantly landing and transitioning, landing and transitioning.
Great dancers—or at least the ones I love to watch—seldom mark differentiation between the note and the space in between or, when they do, they do so intentionally. They use their bodies to string together in physical form the notes and not notes.
Have you ever been to an aerobics class? An aerobics class is distinctly not dance, right? There’s no mistake that it looks distinct from something you’d see at a club or in a performance arts center. Aerobics comprises a series of movements strung together with little regard for the space between notes. It is not about moving in the unknown—it is about landing in the known.
Dance, conversely, is about landing in the known and exploring the unknown. Great dance teachers invite their students into the known and unknown—the note and the space in between.
Try this experiment: watch either of the videos below with the music muted. Simply observe the dance. Can you distinguish the note from the space in between based on their movements? Can you see the dancers embracing both? How does it change for you when you observe them with sound?
Liminal space is the space in between. It can feel scary and unknown, but it’s actually the place where music is made. You, in all your liminality, are a music-maker.
With love and liminality,
P.S. Good love-making exists in the space in between too. Re-read this and replace music with making love and see what you think!