James MacMillan

Published On


Page Range

pp. 13–18


  • English

Print Length

6 pages


A Composer’s Perspective’

  • James MacMillan (author)
In the foreword James MacMillan discusses the profound influence of Shūsaku Endō's novel Silence on his third symphony. Endō's exploration of God's silence in the face of human suffering, such as torture and genocide, is depicted not as absence but as a form of presence. This concept resonates with MacMillan, who sees parallels in the creative process of composing music. He argues that silence is not merely emptiness but a space rich with potential, where music is born. MacMillan reflects on the necessity for composers to engage deeply with silence, despite its inherent fears and challenges, to access their inner creative resources. He draws analogies with religious experiences, particularly the contemplative practice of gazing at icons, which can reveal deeper spiritual truths. Ultimately, MacMillan emphasizes that a composer’s engagement with silence is essential for the creation of meaningful and profound music.


James MacMillan


James MacMillan is one of today’s most successful composers, whose works are performed and broadcast around the world, and he is also internationally active as a conductor. He is Professor of Theology and Music at the University of St Andrews, founder of The Cumnock Tryst, and was awarded a knighthood for his services to music in 2015.