Music by Accident

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“Music is perpetual, and only the hearing is intermittent.”

–Henry David Thoreau

 

I once visited an auto graveyard in rural New Hampshire. Opening a rusted door I found a nest of rats in the back seat of a Chevrolet. I hadn’t realized that rats are talkers. In the beat up Chevy they were as simpatico and musical as a pride of whales…

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Another time  I visited the home of Jan Sibelius, the Finnish composer. He lived the last thirty years of his life in rural seclusion and composed nothing. He rarely entertained visitors. He and his wife read books and listened to the radio. What interested me was Sibelius’ chair. It was a great wooden throne beside the radio. It was ghastly . I didn’t have to sit in it to know how uncomfortable it was. I’m not certain what penance Sibelius was serving. But behind his chair you could hear juniper branches brushing against the window…

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I began to listen in my blue room at the Sheraton.A door slammed. A man coughed. He walked down the hall with a jingle of keys. The God of Remorse and Boredom checking out..

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I daydream about the nation released from its IPods and radios. In turn everyone is given a stethoscope. Now each commuter listens to blood impelling the inmost flaps of his or her body. No one is concerned with the news from Washington. Every driver listens to his or her private blood symphony while driving…

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We stand still. We sway on a narrow 18th century Austrian sidewalk in the shelter of a tremendous shadow. I am filling slowly like a clay jug. Filling with the watery calls of the blackbirds…

 

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I visited Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and stood a long time in the cemetery where Lincoln delivered his address. It was late in the day and there was a cold drizzle. There was no one around. I realized after a time that I was hearing a woodpecker in one of the sycamore trees.

Tap Tap Tap. Orphic telegrapher in the spring rain…

 

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Hermes the messenger god listened for subtleties of wind. The god who closed the eyes of the dying was also a sailor’s friend.

 

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O these days and nights of chance music. And the moon keeping time with the oceans and darkling forests…

 

S.K.