In some ways I’m agreeing with you here io. I’ve also benefited from periods of “no music”, as well as periods of producing or performing no music myself. I find these beneficial, but they cannot be forced - they must happen because they feel ready to happen. Life matches it. Silence is a blank canvas, with mindful serenity you can be surer of what you want to paint. Be in the moment, realise what thoughts you’re laboring under and which of those you’d like to gently discard.
I’d encourage silence for those who are starting to feel numb to the impact of music. I’d also encourage silence if you’re realising your creative work is derivative of a cultural fad which you no longer identify with.
Turn your goddamn TV off. Turn off your phone. Turn off your internet connection. These are often sludge-streams of ideas and emotions you’d rather go without.
Silence isn’t truly “no sound” though: it’s a remarkable gift where you can better cultivate awareness. Inspiration can be found in ordinary sounds: birds, machines, wind, rain, liquids, food, walking, pets, cars, voices, as well as the noises inside your body, the ringing in your ears, the inaudible music of your soul. When I pay attention to my own “soul voice” I can hear this endless screaming, both joyous and terrifying!
Return when ready to the simplicity of the note. Hum with your voice: it doesn’t have to be a beautifully sung note, but just hum a note to yourself and listen, deeply listen. Listen to the character of that note, analyse all the micro details: the volume, the pitch, the fundamental, the harmonics, the resonances with parts of your body. Feel how it is connected to your breathing, and how your breathing integral part of your body’s system, complex and multi-faceted. Play with it.
Then find an instrument, acoustic preferably, or then electric, or then digital if you have nothing else. Sound a note. Just a note. As above, study the detail of that note. Become mindfully aware of that note. There are whole symphonies in single notes!
When it comes time to come back to your creative work, you’re going to be coming at it with fresh inquisitive attention. Your choices will be less conformist, more timeless and expressive. Channel you. The more you accept yourself into the process of expression the better you’ll get at “sounding like you” and being comfortable with it. Practice makes perfect.
Of course we cannot deny the power of influences and inspirations. Some periods of my life I like to take lessons from my chosen “masters”. I’ll dip into work like Arvo Part, Type O Negative, Fovea Hex, Dire Straits, Mike Oldfield, Devin Townsend and countless others - not to understand how to COPY them, but to understand how they strategically open themselves up to be more themselves. If I’m ‘borrowing’ ideas from them I’m taking inspiration from their higher concepts, rather than dogmatically internalising their style. Content is universal and primary, style is transitory and secondary. Both are to be refined.
You’ve got to spend time listening to your old music in a detached and scientific state of mind. No self punishment allowed. Often I’ll listen back to my old stuff and think “well that’s embarrassingly derivative of NIN; this just copies Underworld by the numbers; this bit is not only so Pink Floyd, it’s BAD Pink Floyd”. Hehe, you learn from this. Accept the lesson with grace. And guess what, your fans still love you either way!
The biggest problem we all face is fear. Young composers are afraid they won’t be liked so they choose some style that they can feasibly master and prove themselves to the public. More experienced composers are not immune to fear as well. For example, I’m pretty sure I have my own well established ‘style’ or ‘voice’ to my music, but I’m still terrified of recording vocals. I’ll procrastinate literally for years. I both love my voice but I’m in complete abhorrence of it as well. It takes time to build confidence. Don’t force it. Enjoy the small steps of the journey.
Never be bad on yourself or others for sounding like someone else. That would be get caught on the tragedy of worrying about style more than quality content. Style is almost irrelevant in the long run. I’ve heard amazing chip tunes that I’ve simply adored as music, and plenty of others that I have no resonance for. Same goes for any other style.
But yes, reclaim silence. The canvass is just as important as the paint.