Film composers have many moves they rely on to amplify our emotions. It’s a powerful bag of tricks, and I’m not sure any era of composition has been more adept than contemporary film composers.

Today, I was reminded of a powerful and unexpected trick from that bag: silence.

Pixar movies are aggressively and wonderfully scored by some of the best composers around: Michael Giacchino, Randy Newman, and others. But at one of the most aching emotional moments of Cars 3, (spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen the trailer) when Lightning McQueen crashes early in the film, all music drops out and the silence is more powerful than any music could have been.

Composers, regardless of genre, should take heed of this film knowledge and remember to spend time to consider the gaps in the music.

Conductors, also, ought to consider the value, emotionally and musically, of silence. We spend so much time rehearsing and focusing on the notes, but the story we try to tell with choral performances can benefit as much from attention to well-designed silence.