Classical audiences are generally expected to be as inconspicuous as possible: sit still, make as little noise as possible and clap only at the appropriate times. But composer Murray Hidary wants to take audiences from passive observers to active participants with an initiative he calls SilentWalk, which he'll bring to Nashville this week.
Hidary knew since high school that he wanted to be a composer, but after witnessing the tragic death of his sister in a motorcycle accident, Hidary also knew he needed something beyond the traditional music experience to work through his emotions.
"For me it was creating that space for healing over grief," Hidary explains, adding that incorporating physical movement is essential. "By connecting deeply with our bodies, we actually can open up channels of emotion. So we don't ignore the physical. We don't put it aside. We don't supress it. We don't repress it. We actually engage it more deeply."
Hidary combined his classical composition training with his studies of Eastern philosophy at Zen monasteries in Japan to create SilentWalk. The experience is part guided meditation, part nature hike and part classical concert.
Each SilentWalk participant in Nashville will don a pair of wireless headphones and explore Centennial Park with live prompts from Hidary, which he says are inspired by both the surrounding location and the mood of his music.
This practice has helped Hidary work through deep pain and suffering that he was unable to express through words. But he also says you don't have to go through a major trauma to benefit from a SilentWalk.
"Sometimes it's these micro-traumas that we experience every day, whether it's, you know, traffic getting to work, whether it's a conversation that went sideways with someone you know. All these mini human dramas that play themselves out with family, friends, work— you name it. All of us can use more space and time to lower stress, reduce anxiety and really just make time for ourselves."
Another thing that makes SilentWalks so moving, according to Hidary, is the fact that they are intimate, but happening in a group. In other words, it's a shared experience of being alone, together.
"That's the secret sauce to this whole thing!" Hidary exclaims. "It's incredibly personal. And then at some point you look around and you see hundreds of other people, equally having that intimate personal alone moment, and something clicks. It's not intellectual. It clicks on a visceral, primal emotional level of how deeply connected we all are."
Hidary's SilentWalks have taken him all over the world, from an ancient cave in Israel to picturesque Parisian gardens. He says he tries to pick each city's most beautiful and iconic spaces, which drew him to Nashville's Centennial Park and the Parthenon.