a little night music


Last night I slept on the couch downstairs because John has a bad chest cold and I a)knew he would cough for a good portion of the night and b) I don’t want to catch the cold myself. The window above me was open wide and sometime after midnight I heard the rain begin. We have a metal roof and the sound amplifies. It’s lovely to listen to. I found the rhythm very regular and I tried to think how I would write it down. There is a pergola above the section of deck the window opens to and it’s covered densely with wisteria, grape vine, and clematis. When it had rained for a time, the water began to drip down from the green vines, irregular in tempo. There’s a capiz shell windchime hanging over the table (I think of it as our summer chandelier) and it periodically shook in the light wind. After a bit of fuss when the cat came in with some small creature, wanting to be praised while the catch ran away and hid (a shrew, either Sorex vagrans or S. monticolus, whom I believe has made an escape this morning through the door we left open for it after we watched it race across the kitchen floor), who could sleep? Not me. I turned on a light and picked up the book I was reading before bedtime: Listen to This, by Alex Ross. I read this collection of writing about music some years ago, not long after it was released in 2010. This past weekend, the young violist Evan Hesketh and his wife Farrah O’Shea were staying with us during the Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival and we talked about how much we enjoyed Ross’s earlier book, The Rest is Noise. I left Listen to This out so they could sample its pleasures. Before bedtime, I re-read the essay on Bob Dylan and in the night I went to my favourite essay in the book, “Song of the Earth”, a piece about visiting John Luther Adams in Alaska and talking to him about music. I love JLA’s Dark Waves and so much more of his work, including the ravishing Become Ocean, an orchestral composition that won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Somehow it was exactly right to be reading about him, reading his sources for music:

When the ice breakup comes, it makes incredible sounds. It’s symphonic. There’s candle ice, which is crystals hanging down like chandeliers. They chime together in the wind. Or whirlpools open up along the shore or out in the middle of the river, and water goes swirling through them. Or sizzle ice, which makes a sound like the effervescent popping you hear when you pour water over ice cubes.

In a room with high ceilings, I was reading about ice and listening to water, the lush harmonies of leaf rustle, shell chimes, water pinging on metal, and finding its way through dense green vines.

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