Sunday, June 10, 2007
I was out walking around the neighborhood the other day, trying to walk as far away from the road as possible so as to stay away from city sounds, and as I walked I reflected on several things.
I love the city with all of its conveniences, but moments of complete quiet are hard to find. In the country at least it's natural sounds you hear, the buzzing of insects, the twittering of birds, the mooing of cows ... even tractors once in awhile, but a tractor is much different than the roar of traffic on a highway in a city.
Americans are generally wealthy people. The poor are usually better off than the middle class in other countries. Our houses and status and what have you are far below that of the "poor" in Austen's day. Ever notice that the Bennett family was considered poor? Their house I would certainly not classify as such, though admittedly it fall short of the grandeur of both Bingley's and Darcy's house. The Bennett family still kept servants to cook and help around the house, though they did not have a large garden. They were the poor. I suppose the destitute would be what I would think of as "poor."
I grew up with the piano being played, though I never have mastered the skill myself. I take the talent for granted. As I was walking about the neighborhood I paused as I heard the scales being played in a house along the way. My mind immediately flew to a time when walking about it was probably not uncommon to hear such a thing. My mind flew back to the time of Austen. It was quiet refreshing. I am certain it was not a recording, as my brother inquired if it was or not.
The almost imperceptible hesitations on basic scales convinced me that an actually person was in that moment playing the sound I heard drifting from the open windows. I wanted to walk up to the house, find a window where I could observe the pianist and lean my head on my arms on the windowsill; I refrained and continued walking. I walked slowly until the music was out of hearing. I was glad some others still practiced the art of piano playing, and that the windows were open so passerbys could hear, though I doubt the pianist knew the joy brought to me as I walked by.
The train whistle was distinctly heard for most of my walk. I do enjoy listening to the train, but I would have much rather listened to nature itself, though I suppose the whistle did a fairly good job of blocking out the traffic noises. When the whistle was not blowing I did enjoy the birds singing, though there are far fewer birds in the city than in the country. The flowers were lovely and fragrant, though I dare not stop or go up to bush of roses or a garden of daffodils to enjoy for fear of trespassing. I was pleased that my allergies did not act up, that was a pleasant change.
Later on in my walk I passed another house. This time instead of soothing piano music I heard beat of a drumset with cymbals. While it was enjoyable in its own way it was a far cry from the piano I heard earlier, though the drummer sounded more experienced than the pianist. It was beat without much variation, no melody. Of course I realize that drums don't carry a melody, it isn't what they were designed to do. I would have enjoyed a band much better. At least some other instrumental accompaniment. Even had there been I would have longed for the piano. That moment that took be back centuries ago. I enjoyed hearing the drums, and slowed down to hear them as well. To me the two instruments I heard practiced that day contrasted the classical with the modern. The refinement of the piano, from the sounds of it in the living room, to the drumset in the garage. Each unique and beautiful in its own way. It set me to thinking.
The almost monotonous drums brought my mind to atonal music. Not that drums are atonal (though they could be used in that style of "music") but remember, at that moment drums represented the modern era to me - an era that embraces atonal "music." I started wondering why anyone would listen to atonal "music" and came to a conclusion that it takes more skill to deftly lie and say you actually enjoyed listening to it than it did to play it (for it could be played with headphones on to block the sounds). My soul is repulsed at this thing called atonal music, and I think that is why people embrace it.
Everyone is looking for something, and if focus can be shifted from the aching of your soul to something that causes your soul to ache it can numb your soul, to some degree or another. Just like a number of other things can numb your soul. Atonal ----- became popular in the 1920's, after "The World War" ended. People were hurting and saw no order in the world - why should music have order? I think it was a way to express the hurt and confusion inside. Why does it repulse our souls? We were made in the image of God. God is a God of order. Atonal ------ is rather disorderly and disturbing, as such it goes against the grain of how we were made.
Some dissonance now and then within the structure of an orderly piece can be appropriate and useful. Note that the dissonance largely represents disorder in the piece, as atonal ----- is complete disorder. Atonal ----- I think represents a search our culture at large is on.
So that day as I walked the neighborhood I noted several things. It was an enjoyable time, and a lovely day. I arrived home edified, and my favorite memory, while enjoying the whole walk, was hearing the piano as I strolled along.
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