The music stopped on March 23, 2020. That was the date we entered lockdown. In the resulting chaos, frequently bordering on panic, few of us were thinking about when we'd next be able to go out, have a drink and listen to some good music again. Flabbergasted by the speed with which our lives had been turned upside down, we struggled to deal with this new, contagious - and in the worst cases, deadly - virus.
So the silence went unnoticed for a while.
It's only now as we emerge tentatively into the post-pandemic world that many of us are starting to realise what we've been missing.
For instance, we're discovering that bars are just not the same without music. Whether it's a DJ on the decks or a live band, or even just the barman's Spotify playlist, music is an integral part of the experience.
The absence of sound is just one of the many restrictions which currently prevail in Northern Ireland's pubs - those which have actually managed to open. No singing, no dancing; you're not even allowed to stand up. Such a restricted, regimented environment is the antithesis of what going out for a drink with your mates should be all about: the opportunity to relax, kick back, switch off from the demands of everyday life and have some fun.
You remember fun? It's what we used to have before coronavirus.
Of course the logic of these rules is to keep infection risk as low as possible. If there's loud music people will shout over it, or they'll go close to others to be heard, or they'll start singing and dancing, thus spraying their germy droplets all over each other. The fear is that will put us back to a very grim square one.
Caution is undoubtedly required. But it's equally important that we don't shrug our shoulders hopelessly and accept the current situation as "the new normal".
Music in all its myriad forms is vital to society. It brings immense joy to people's lives. Yes, it can be a solitary activity if you're plugged in to your iPod, but it means so much more when you share it with other people. Music is one of life's richest communal experiences, which speaks to something deep, even primitive, within all of us. It's healing. It's inspiring. It's enlivening.
That's true whether you're sitting in the Ulster Hall listening to a performance of Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto, headbanging in the mosh pit at a metal gig, or for those so inclined, singing your heart out in church.
One of the most uplifting experiences I've ever had was on the dancefloor of an old ballroom in East Berlin in the middle of a sweaty, happy, beer-soaked crowd of all ages, singing along - with a liberating absence of irony - to Barry Manilow's 1978 tropical disco hit Copacabana.
All right, maybe you had to be there to appreciate it. But what's undeniable is that music has the power to take us somewhere beyond ourselves. It's part of what it means to be human.
Right now our first thought should be for the people who provide the music: the live venues, the artists, the technicians, the promoters, the freelancers. Without urgent assistance many face ruin, and we'll all be the poorer for it.
This week a new £33 million emergency arts support package for Northern Ireland was announced by the UK Government. It's designed to help struggling institutions "stay afloat while their doors are closed".
The money will be spread thin, but at least it should give music venues, theatres, museums, galleries and other cultural spaces such as independent cinemas some chance of surviving this grim time.
How the money will be distributed and allocated is not yet clear, however, and this is a serious cause for concern. Arts and culture funding here has long been subject to shameless sectarian carve-ups, or used as a vehicle for tit-for-tat political attacks and reprisals. Our politicians have form in this matter.
If a large portion of the emergency package is annexed and doled out to favoured projects along the usual orange and green lines it would represent a grotesque betrayal of the arts and of the vast number of people in Northern Ireland for whom culture means something more than "usuns versus themmuns".
The arts - in all their kaleidoscopic variety - belong to all of us. Whatever happens, we can't let March 23, 2020 be the day the music died.