Arising organically from his music and his mindfulness practice, Phillip designed and teaches Radical Quiet in the University of Utah’s Honors College (and also periodically offers a similar but shorter public course; if interested).

“If you look at zero you see nothing, but look through it and you will see the world.”

Mathematician Robert Kaplan, The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero

As a counterbalance to the loud and fast modes so predominant in today’s society, Radical Quiet proposes, explores and develops vital alternatives: quiet and slow ways of living, learning and appreciating our lives and the world around us.

This course digs down to the radical root—the fundamental quality, meaning and aesthetics—of quiet. We curate and cultivate a quiet that is not small, contained, weak or separate, but rather a quiet that is big, all-embracing, powerful and pervasive.

We seek not the absence of sound but the presence of awareness.

Our awareness will grow through the daily practice of mindfulness. Based on this foundation we will develop critical, creative and interpretive skills through deep listening (to sounds and music), slow looking (at art) and contemplative reading (of literature). Silence will be our teacher; music will include “the space between the notes” (Claude Debussy); and artistic concepts, structures and forms will be the architecture for our learning and experience.

Cross-cutting themes will include:

  • 1. The quiet power of introspection and contemplation.

  • 2. The Japanese concept of Ma (respect for pauses in time and emptiness in space)

  • 3. The capability of “being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts” (Negative Capability, John Keats)
  • 4. The environmental and social effects of noise

  • 5. The cultivation of quiet “as an act of political resistance to the attention economy” (How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell)
  • 6. The skill and practice of listening (to ourselves and others)

Radical Quiet offers a “space both to be and to become” (Parker Palmer) and cultivates a classroom that equally values speaking and listening, so that each student may know in deep, profound and valuable ways.

Whether looking at art, dance, landscape or life, whether hearing music, nature or the sounds of the city, our goal is to “see with fresh eyes” and hear with fresh ears, to “turn the everyday flow of perception into an act of discovery” (Slow Looking, Shari Tishman), and to become “completely aware of being alive” (How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell).