“A song, a song, high above the trees with a voice as big as the sea, with a voice as big as the sea.”
As a little girl in chorus, I loved that Christmas piece. There was something majestic and homey about the conversation passing from the night wind to the mighty king. I liked the imagery of the sky and the little lamb and the star with a tail as big as a kite. I sang it with all the passion I could muster at the age of 9.
Today’s gift on the parade of days in December is hearing. Sound. What are your favorite sound memories? What’s the first thing you enjoy hearing in the morning? How do sounds change your mood?
Today I woke up to the sound of chickadees outside my window. The sun was shining through the frost making rainbow diamonds of pink and green. I tried to take a picture of it, but the colors didn’t come out. I realized that even when I put my glasses on, the prism effect disappeared. I Googled “frost” images, and none of them have the colors that I can see with my naked eye. I wonder if the lens thing destroys the refraction? Okay, that’s a sight digression. Sight was yesterday. Today, I want to concentrate on sound.
It’s funny how you can be totally familiar with a sound and not even know that it’s in your repertoire. For instance, I can sit upstairs in bed while Steve goes down to the kitchen to make a snack, and I can figure out exactly what he’s fixing, just by listening. My kids used to hate this skill. “How did you know that I was doing that?” Sneaking snacks, tiptoeing out the front door, playing music on your headphones when you should be sleeping, they all have a particular set of sounds. Even silence. Silence to a mother with toddlers communicates alarm louder than a French siren.
Favorite sounds from childhood: the ice cream truck (why do they always play The Entertainer by Scott Joplin?) is a cliche. I’ve got one: the sound of my mother calling us in for dinner with an alto yodel at a major third interval. I was the most embarrassed kid on the block. Couldn’t we have had a bell or a triangle or something that wasn’t her voice? Okay, in all fairness, the sound of her singing Brahms lullaby to me at night made up for that. “Lullaby and goodnight, with roses bedight (archaic form of ‘bedecked’, I suppose), with lilies o’er spread is baby’s wee bed. Lay thee down now and sleep, may thy slumber be deep; lay thee down now and rest, may thy slumber be blessed.” Or her other standard: “Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh, shadows of the evening steal across the sky. Jesus gives the weary calm and sweet repose, with his tend’rest blessings may thine eyelids close.” “Night-night, d’good girl”, she would always say, kiss me on the forehead and tuck me in before tiptoeing out of the room.
Music; have I had music in my life! I am a walking encyclopedia of silly camp songs that crop up at the most mundane cue. I am still learning to be as familiar with “serious music”. Even after attaining a BA in music, I have to say that I feel I know very little about classical instrumental music. This is where Steve is educating me. He began collecting albums as a teenager and can cite off the top of his head how many symphonies, concertos, operas and other works were composed by a plethora of artists. As a voice performance major, I know more about songs. I even make orchestral works into songs, mnemonic devises to help me remember the composer. “Sergei Prokofiev could barely read the treble clef until he was past 47” sung to Peter’s theme from Peter & the Wolf, for instance. (I got that from a book, actually. I didn’t make it up. But you get the idea.)
White noise. There’s a scene in Tarkovsky’s film “Solaris” where they tape strips of paper over the air vents of their space station to simulate the sound of rustling leaves. Noise that makes you feel at home. The elevated train down the block. Sirens. Owls. Coyotes. The dishwasher. I have my own white noise going constantly in my head. I’ve had it since 2005. It’s called an arachnoid cyst. So I am a bit hard of hearing, but not so’s you’d notice, really. Except when Steve mumbles something in his low register. “Did I fake a rainbow trout? No? Oh, ‘did I take the garbage out’!” I can live with it.
My favorite sounds, off the top of my head: Susan’s voice saying, “Hiiii, Maamaa!” on the other end of the phone. The whistle of a cardinal. A barbershop quartet. “Unforgettable” crooned by Emily. Josh and Becca laughing. The pop of a cork from a bottle. Coyotes and hoot owls and wind. Red-winged blackbirds. The loon at Woodbury Lake. My mother’s voice. Church bells. The bell of mindfulness. Frogs: spring peepers to be exact. I hear them every year. They’re deafening, practically, but I can never SEE one! It’s a taunt. One day, I’ll get lucky.
What is music to your ears? Tomorrow, we’re off to the Lyric again for Richard Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos”. That’ll be some music. Then we’re having dinner with Emily at an Algerian crepe restaurant. Can you guess what the gift will be for that day?